Showing posts with label Sports. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sports. Show all posts
31 March 2022

KSO hails India's 'Hungry' young striker Lynda Kom Serto

KANGPOKPI, Mar 29 : The Kuki Students' Organization Imphal has extended its heartfelt congratulations to India's 'hungry' young striker Lynda Kom Serto for achieving the top scorer award and most valuable player title in the recently concluded SAFF U-18 Women's Championship 2022 at Jamshedpur.

India have been crowned champions of the SAFF U-18 Women's Championship despite losing 0-1 to Bangladesh in the penultimate leg of the league competition on account of a better goal difference.
Lynda Kom Serto, who ended the championship with five goals and Golden Boot was also adjudged "Most Valuable Player" of the SAFF U-18 Women's Championship 2022.

The young striker is looking forward to FIFA U-17 World Cup preparation and wants to score more goals.
Sangboi Neitham, Youth Affairs and Sports Secretary of KSO Imphal while congratulation Lynda for her achievement said that dedication and hard work never remain unpaid.

"Your achievements will be an inspiration for the upcoming youths. This is an incredible milestone and you deserve the spotlight", he added.

The student body also encouraged the hungry young striker to keep up her motivation and hard work and wished her the best in all her future endeavors and bring more laurels to the people.

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27 April 2021

"How is so much money being spent on IPL when people aren't getting hospitals:" Tye

RR pacer Andrew Tye, who recently returned to Australia amid second coronavirus wave in India, said, "From a player safety point of view, we're safe...but is it going to stay safe?"

He added, "From an Indian point of are these companies and franchises spending so much money, and the government, on IPL when...people are not being able to get...hospitals?"

18 March 2021

Uniting Clashing Tribes With Sports, Manipur NGO Improves Attendance of 500 Kids


Uniting Clashing Tribes With Sports, Manipur NGO Improves Attendance of 500 Kids

Uniting Clashing Tribes With Sports, Manipur NGO Improves Attendance of 500 Kids

How Recognize Rise and Empower Association (RREA), a non-profit in Manipur, delivers quality education and is ending clash of the clans through sports. Their Sports for Social Development programme in Kamjong district is significantly improving students’ attendance, too.

By Rinchen Norbu Wangchuk

Last March, while the rest of the country was in lockdown, two villages inhabited by the Kuki and Thankgkul Naga tribes, respectively, in Kamjong district, Manipur, were suffering an ordeal of another kind. The Kukis from the Chassad village and the Tangkhul Nagas from the Sampui village have been engaged in a violent feud over decades-long land dispute. This resulted in armed attacks, burnt down jhum fields, homes and looting of household goods.

Such clashes capture the hostility that has existed between both tribes since colonial times. Suffice it to say, these hostilities revolve primarily over land rights, and more importantly, these clashes in the state aren’t limited to these two tribes or communities. In such a context, it does beg the question, what possibilities can sports create in a region which has historically witnessed different ethnic conflicts, bloodshed and violence?

Mathanmi Hungyo, the founder of Recognize Rise and Empower Association (RREA)—a non-profit which is working towards delivering quality education in Manipur’s border villages—and Rohit Agarwal, a programme director with RREA, explored that possibility in early 2018.

After all, this is a state which has consistently produced elite athletes ranging from Ngangom Bala Devi, the first Indian woman to become a professional footballer who currently plies her trade at Scottish giants Rangers FC to champion amateur boxers like MC Mary Kom and Dingko Singh, and weightlifting legends like Mirabai Chanu.

Tapping into the sporting potential of the state, RREA started an initiative called Sports For Social Development in 2018. They piloted the initiative by collaborating with Tata Trust to launch Manipur’s first grassroots football centre in Kamjong High School. The intention behind this centre was to create a space for children to come and play.

Speaking to The Better India, the 27-year-old Mathanmi Hungyo, who identifies as a Tangkhul Naga, remembers growing up in Imphal city as a minority.

“At school, you could feel the tension and hostility that existed between different communities in terms of how we sat together in class and how we made friends. But on the field, where I loved playing football, we would unite irrespective of which tribe or community we came from. Our only objective was winning and playing the game. Taking note of my personal experience and thinking about our people, who love playing sports, we felt this could be a medium to strengthen our sense of fraternity. A lot of our personal experiences went into developing this programme because we could see how sports could unite us by offering us spaces where we can come together,” notes Mathanmi.

“The pilot programme in 2018 created a monumental impact on developing children’s interest in sports. Many children started participating at the centre. Aside from marginally improving student attendance and enrolment, the most interesting outcome of this initiative was that children from different tribes started playing and interacting with each other. Leaving aside their identity-based differences, which have roots in historical clashes between different tribes in the strife-torn region, sports became a tool of conflict mitigation and peace-building among the students,” claims Rohit.

The Kamjong High School football team.

Breaking barriers through sports

Upon seeing the positive impact of their grassroots football centre at Kamjong High School, over more than one and half years, Mathanmi and Rohit felt a more comprehensive approach was required in their Sports for Social Development initiative. One which would encompass other aspects of children’s education.

Thus, in early 2020, the RREA expanded its grassroots football programme to other government schools—Phungyar Higher Secondary School and Kasom Khullen High School—and included other sports like volleyball, badminton, table tennis and even carrom for those interested in outdoor games.

Funded by the Kochi-based Anaha Trust, the programme also covered elements like developing play spaces in schools. This employs a more participatory approach where school, children, and community become equal participants in developing play spaces. Apart from this, the program intends to increase children’s attendance in school, support their learning competencies and enhance the scope for personality development. It also supplements RREA’s Teach For Northeast Fellowship program.

“These schools are located in places driven by underdevelopment, insurgency, conflict and violence. Therefore, the value of sports is very high. Children from poor and marginalised backgrounds undergo different mental health issues, social dysfunction, and many other issues which affect their ability to learn. In such a context, a mediator like sports can actually ensure children’s right to quality education. The influence of sports on character formation and social cohesion has direct bearing on peaceful attitudes. It also helps children to better express themselves in the process. Self-awareness is an important life skill which children often develop through sports,” argues Rohit.

These elements evidently have a bearing on achieving peace between different communities, an essential objective for any initiative seeking social change.

“Sports offers a platform where children from different ethnic groups participate together to play and interact. This has led to building peace amongst each other. These children would otherwise remain in their own social groups when inside a classroom. But with the advent of our sports programme, their interest in playing with each other has grown. Sports has helped break these social barriers and encouraged children to interact with each other,” he adds.

Girls at Kamjong High School during football training.

Inspiring youth, inspiring generations

Driving the RREA’s initiative in these schools are 14 members of the organisation and sports educators, who have left behind good opportunities to return home and make a difference.

Take the example of Viso Shimray, a certified All India Football Federation (AIFF) ‘D’ licensed sports coach, who has previously worked with the Baichung Bhutia Football Academy in Delhi. Viso has come back to Manipur to be around his community in Kamjong and help the children through Sports.

“These educators are passionate youth who come from local communities. The idea is to invest and build capacity of the local youth so that the intervention remains sustainable. Also, these youth can inspire and become role models for the children as they would be able to relate with the local people more than someone from outside,” says Rohit.

The educators are qualified to conduct sports training and have prior experience in the field. They are both graduates and hold a masters degree in physical education. One of their educators, for example, completed his Masters degree from National Sports University.

Sports educator Viso Shimray coaching students.

“Sports sessions at these three schools extend for three-four days in a week, although earlier it was for all school days. But our sports educators felt that students needed regular breaks for physical recovery. Today, these sessions last for about 1.5 hours after school. They are coached for an hour and then play for another 30 minutes. Besides football, there is volleyball, badminton and table tennis. For those not interested in outdoor sports, we give them facilities to play games like carrom board. These students can choose whatever sport they want, but most girls and boys love football. Our project schools also participate in local sports tournaments. One of the schools, Phungyar Higher Secondary School, will host the upcoming inter-district sports competition,” says Mathanmi.

Recently, the Kamjong High School boys football team were awarded the ‘Best Team’ in a district-level school tournament thanks to their fine performances on the pitch. The team is now getting invitations for other tournaments organised at the State level.

Assisting the RREA is the district administration, which has extended their full support.

“We have received total cooperation from the district administration, but no monetary aid. For the recent Border Area Development Programme, a centrally sponsored scheme implemented by the State government, the local district administration has sent a proposal to better equip indoor badminton and basketball courts at these schools. Although the proposal hasn’t been approved yet, they have expressed a genuine desire to help us build the necessary sports-related infrastructure for these schools,” adds Mathanmi.

Students exercising

The boys and girls who love football

Hanminao Malung, a student of Kamjong High School from Bungpa Khullen village, talks about how football has become a genuine medium for self-expression. Before the initiative took shape, she talks about how girls would mostly roam around the corridor or talk amongst their groups during their free time in school or recess. But thanks to educators like Viso, she found a platform to express herself through sports.

“One of the best things about sports in our school is our sports educator. Viso Sir provided us with all the necessary equipment and guidance to play sports. He also teaches us the health benefits of playing sports which no one told me before. Before our new sports educator, we were very hesitant to play sports. We felt that only boys would play sports like football. But our sports educators have also made girls play football. I like it when he brings together both boys and girls into mixed groups to play sports. Besides raising my confidence, the best part of playing football is the friends I have made,” she says.

Mangjalen Haokip, a 13-year-old boy from Chassad village, has always devoted himself to football. He was among the first students to join the sports programme at Kamjong High School in 2018. Prior to it, he played on his village playground without any guidance. Much to their credit, his parents have really encouraged him to pursue his interest in the sport.

“There have been various improvements in me personally and socially after attending the sports sessions. I am more open, confident and motivated. Thanks to sports, I have made many friends from other tribes, which I think helps the larger society,” he says.

Besides technique and skill, Mangjalen says that the football programme has taught him good manners, how to maintain a positive attitude and respect for punctuality.


“One of the biggest impacts of our initiative has been that children from different tribes started playing and interacting together. Children from different tribes are getting along well with each other and communicating in English. Before it was very common to see children interacting only with students from their tribes and speaking in their respective dialects. Also, during these sporting activities, it has been observed that children are now more supportive and accepting towards appointment of captains/other leadership positions towards students from other tribes. This change in the mindset of students and positive behavior development is the most rewarding impact of our initiative,” says Mathanmi.

Another significant impact has been improvement in school attendance. According to the RREA’s own findings, as a result of their intervention across the three government schools, 484 students (240 students – Phungyar High School, 170 students – Kamjong High School, 74 students – Kasom Khullen High School) who would earlier attend class less than 40 percent of the time now have attendance levels averaging over 80 per cent. Meanwhile, for the upcoming academic year, there are 200 students looking to enrol in Phungyar High School alone thanks to their sports development programme.


“The openness of these sports programmes encouraged school-going children to participate in the sport of their choice irrespective of their individual skills and talent levels. Apart from the three project government schools with around 500 direct student beneficiaries, RREA’s sports program is also supporting close to another 500 children from other community schools through sports. In total, we are impacting close to 1000 children. These 500 children are part of other community schools that also come to participate in the sports program. The number of these community schools varies in the range of 12-14 in number with a mix of private, government aided and government schools,” says Rohit.

“Any child who does not have access to play spaces lacks the opportunity to develop holistically. Thus, creation of play spaces in schools provides children with an opportunity to network, socialise and interact with each other. They are now able to establish positive relationships with their peer groups and students from other tribes. In addition, children are able to form a positive self-image, thereby allowing themselves to accept the way they are. This gives children a better understanding of values like empathy where they are no longer judging others. Instead, they are cooperating and supporting each other,” says Mathanmi.



11 March 2021

Hills of Mizoram Alive With the Sound of Football

 MFA Artificial Turf at Sairang Dinthar

  • Mizoram granted artificial turf pitch for dedication to football
  • The ground at Sairang Dinthar officially inaugurated on 8 March 2021
  • Recent exploits have put diminutive state firmly on India's football map

Located in the extremes of the north-eastern region of India bordering Myanmar and Bangladesh, Mizoram is a remote state in rugged, hilly terrain that is geographically unfamiliar to many from mainland India.

However, due to its recent exploits in the game, this diminutive state has been firmly put on the map in India. Despite numerous successes, the Mizoram Football Association - affiliated to the All India Football Federation - was yet to have a proper infrastructure under its authority.

The Mizoram State Sports Council had granted control of the local ground at Sairang Dinthar to the MFA in 2013. In 2016, the All India Football Federation President Mr Praful Patel stated at the AIFF General Body Meeting that Mizoram will be recognised for its hard work and dedication in football by being granted an artificial turf pitch using FIFA funds. In August of the same year, excavation work for the site began.

MFA Artificial Turf at Sairang Dinthar

As the location of the site is rocky by nature, progress became laboured. Heavy monsoon rains received practically all-year round and the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic also resulted in an extended delay during the final stages of the project; but ultimately, with astute planning and considerable cooperation and execution, the MFA Ground at Sairang Dinthar was finally completed.

The formal inauguration of the newly laid turf was held at the site on 8 March 2021 by Mr. Robert R. Royte, Hon’ble Minister for Sports & Youth Services, Government of Mizoram in presence of the Mizoram FA officials and staff, ex-players and current footballers and the community. FIFA Regional Office Development Manager South Asia, Mr Prince Rufus was also present. Speaking on this occasion, the Hon’ble Minister for Sports & Youth Services commented that as a football enthusiast and as a Minister of Mizoram, he conveyed his deep gratitude to FIFA, and he promised that the state government would construct a considerable number of artificial pitches in the near future.

Mr. Sanjeevan Balasingam, FIFA Director Member Associations, Asia & Oceania in his message commented, “On the inauguration of the FIFA Forward 1.0 Special Project 'Sairang Dinthar Artificial Turf, Mizoram', I would like to congratulate All India Football Federation and Mizoram Football Association. I am sure that this new infrastructure will help develop and promote football in the region more than ever before. FIFA is pleased to bring joy and football to the local community through this newly laid turf. I am aware that Mizoram Football Association has plans for the future focused around this turf and I wish all success for your ensuing endeavour."

Mr. Praful Patel, President, All India Football Federation in his message said: “All India Football Federation is delighted to be part of the development process in helping out the Mizoram Football Federation with the artificial turf under the FIFA Forward Programme. The AIFF is committed to the growth of the sport in every corner of the country and is aware of the passion for the ‘Beautiful Game’ in the state. AIFF appreciates and is thankful to FIFA for all their help and look forward to the support and cooperation all throughout."

Now that MFA has exclusive control of this ground, the planning for Tribal Girls’ Hostel has also begun and the association can now focus on dedicated long-term grassroots and youth development programmes, as well as activities for the wider community.

Veterans' match

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07 March 2021

Mizo Boxer Lalrinsanga Tlau Wins WBC World Youth Title

Mizo boxer Lalrinsanga Tlau also known as Sangtea has made history by winning the WBC World Youth title.

Lalrinsanga Tlau went up against Eric Quarm of Ghana at the LPS Fight Night which was held in Aizawl, Mizoram on 6 March 2021, and secured a decision win to clinch the WBC World Youth Title.

Sangtea and Quarm went the complete distance of eight rounds. The fight had a lot of heated moments but it was Sangtea that had the upper hand throughout the showdown. With the win, Sangtea also improved his professional record to 5-0 and cemented his spot on top of the BoxRec Super Featherweight Rankings for Indian boxers.

He had been training under the watchful eyes of Mujtaba Kamal and Coach R.Lalchhuanawma who has been crucial for the development of boxers in the state of Mizoram. Coach Andrew Khiangte has also been playing an important role in the development of the young boxer.

Prior to his title fight in Mizoram, Sangtea had headlined the event promoted by Grassroot Boxing Promotions and Management in Mumbai. He also has international experience under his resume having fought at the Caesars Palace in Dubai where he secured a unanimous decision victory.

Heading into the fight, the young Mizo boxer was ranked seventh in the BoxRec pound-for-pound rankings for India and he is likely to climb up further with the huge win.

Apart from the title fight, LPS Fight Night also featured a string of Indian boxers in action including Asad Asif Khan who had won the IBO Oceania-Orient Featherweight title in his last fight. Let us know your thoughts on the win of Lalrinsanga Tlau in the comment section below.
01 March 2021

"Stick To What You're Good At" - Global Soccer Superstar Slams LeBron's Political Pandering

Clash of the egotistical titans...

Global soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimovic has a great deal of respect for the basketball skills of LeBron James, but wishes the Los Angeles Lakers star would refrain from remarking on political concerns.

The historically outspoken Ibrahimovic, who’s a striker at A.C. Milan, spoke to UEFA and Discovery+ Sweden to express his opinion that athletes in general should shy away from delving into issues involving politics and cited James as an example.

“He’s phenomenal, but I don’t like when people with a ‘status’ speak about politics. Do what you’re good doing,” Ibrahimovic said.

“I play football because I’m the best playing football, I’m no politician. If I’d been a politician, I would be doing politics. This is the first mistake famous people do when they become famous: for me it is better to avoid certain topics and do what you’re good doing, otherwise you risk doing something wrongly.”

Following Zlatan’s comments, LeBron wasn’t too pleased that someone dared to call him out and fired back Friday night, according to ESPN:

"I would never shut up about things that are wrong. I preach about my people, and I preach about equality.

Social injustice. Racism. Systematic voter suppression. Things that go on in our community...

So, there’s no way I would ever just stick to sports, because I understand how this platform and how powerful my voice is...

I speak from a very educated mind, so I’m kind of the wrong guy to actually go at because I do my homework."

Watch LeBron's response here...

Daily Caller's David Hookstead summed things up perfectly: "This is America. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but being able to score 30 points in an NBA game doesn’t make you an authority on politics."

16 February 2021

Teen Spinner from Nagaland on IPL radar

Khrievitso Kense.(Special Arrangement)
Khrievitso Kense

What Kense does know is how to spin the ball past right-hander’s bat, fast. So impressed were some IPL talent scouts that the leg-spinner made the 292-player shortlist from 1194 applicants for the auction in Chennai on February 18.

By Rasesh Mandani

Kra-vi-toe’ it is,” Khrievitso Kense said over a phone call from Chennai. Quarantining in Chennai ahead of the Vijay Hazare Trophy one-dayers, the 16-year-old leg-spinner is used to people not getting that ‘h’ and ‘s’ in his first name are silent. And then he is asked about his roots.

Kense comes from Dimapur, Nagaland’s biggest city. His forefathers belonged to Angami Naga ethnic group who were once into cultivation and livestock-rearing. Kense has no idea about the tribe’s past. “I don’t know what my name means,” he said with a sheepish laugh.

What Kense does know is how to spin the ball past right-hander’s bat, fast. So impressed were some IPL talent scouts that the leg-spinner made the 292-player shortlist from 1194 applicants for the auction in Chennai on February 18. Come auction-day, Kense his five siblings, parents, doting grandfather will be hoping for a cricketer from Nagaland to break into Indian Premier League (IPL).

Nagaland coach Kanwaljit Singh has helped Kense catapult from U16 to Nagaland’s T20 side in Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy this year. Singh, a domestic giant (369 first-class wickets), had narrowly missed the India call. Now, it’s his coaching motto that a young talent should be tracked before it’s too late. “I had told our captain Jonathan (Rongsen) to bring any youngster he finds exciting to the trials. The moment I saw Khrievitso, I found his fastish leg-breaks very exciting. We drafted him in the team straightaway,” he said.

Kense lived up to Singh’s faith by picking seven wickets in four matches in the Mushtaq Ali meet. It is Singh’s second opinion the Mumbai Indians’ talent scouts sought before Kense was called for their pre-auction trials. Since then, Rajasthan Royals too have trialled Kense.

Long before Nagaland and the other North-eastern teams were integrated in the domestic calendar in 2018 following reforms in the Indian cricket board, Kense had been bitten by the cricket bug. “When I was seven-years-old, I would play cricket with the tennis ball my friends,” he said. “The first ball I bowled with the leather ball was when I was 12. My leg-spin began to come out well. In Nagaland, football is very popular. I also play football and table tennis, but on TV, I only watch cricket.”

Live television and streaming of IPL have been a major source of attraction for cricket in those pockets of India where it is not the first sport. Kense’s favourite Indian cricketer is Rohit Sharma. Bu in his area of expertise, he idolises Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan. “My action is more simple, not like Rashid Khan,” he said. “But I like his leg-spin, and his attitude.”

Singh said Kense is some way from mastering the googly. “He bowls the fastish leg-breaks, the top spinner, the straighter one. The googly, he needs to work on that one,” he said. “I will work on it with him after the Vijay Hazare. I don’t want to rush him into variations. Right now, he is working on using the crease more.”

Back home, Kense’s family is getting used to their second-youngest child travel the country for cricket. “Chennai, Bangalore, Assam, Himachal…” Kense rattled off his list of cricket expeditions. His father? “He is a carpenter. Now, he only goes to work sometimes,” he said. Mother is a house-keeper, eldest brother, 25, is studying MA, and all other sisters including the youngest are studying.”

Kense’s growing up years were “tough”, but the family was “not poor, but middle-class.” My grandfather is an ex-MLA. He took care of me and all the expenses.”

Kense often dreams of bowling like Rashid in the IPL. “I have not seen him succumbing to pressure. He is “bindaas (relaxed)” kind of a guy. I don’t see a reason why he will falter against any big names,” said Singh. “He is blessed with his trajectory and control. Even when he is hit, he finds a way to comeback. I can say one thing, whichever team picks him, they won’t regret it. It will be a big breakthrough for North-east cricket, if he can make it to IPL.”

13 January 2021

Who will win Burnley vs Man United

Is Pogba Lone Strike Enough to Send Solskjaer’s Men Three Points Clear at Top

Burnley vs Man United: The game was heading for a draw when a Paul Pogba volley ended the stalemate with the visitors surviving a late onslaught to hold onto their slim lead. 

Burnley vs Man United: Pogba Lone Strike Enough to Send Solskjaer's Men Three Points Clear at Top
Anthony Martial (left) and Paul Pogba (Screen Grab)

Manchester United fought hard for a 1-o win over Burnley that sent them three points clear at the top of the Premier League standings on Monday. The game was heading for a draw when a Paul Pogba volley ended the stalemate with the visitors surviving a late onslaught to hold onto their slim lead. 

United needed just a point to move ahead of their rivals and defending champions Liverpool in the standings and for most part of the contest, marred by VAR controversy, it seemed headed for a goalless finish with both teams squandering chances. 

A foul on Edinson Cavani by Robbie Brady just outside the danger zone was overruled after a long review with Luke Shaw instead being booked for a foul on Johann Gudmundsson. Then United were harshly not awarded a goal when Harry Maguire headed home a cross from Shaw for a foul on Erik Pieters. 

However, with 19 minutes left, Marcus Rashford picked out Pogba from the right who then fired home the winner ahead of a crunch clash with Liverpool this weekend. United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer later revealed that emptions were running high in the dressing room during the half-time thanks to the VAR controversy.

“You’ve got to calm them down at half-time because emotions are running high because they disagree with the things that happen out there,” Solskjaer told Sky Sports. “So we have to take back control and we played really well in the second half and we held out at the end.”

Solskjaer though refused to comment on the decisions that went against his team. “I’ve not watched any of the decisions so I can’t really say. Might’ve been a foul by Luke apparently so that’s probably the right decision, definitely not a foul for Harry for his goal. If you can’t jump and head it in like this, I don’t believe that’s anywhere near a foul. Delighted with the response after a bit of a tough first half-hour,” he said.

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07 October 2020

Engineer turned MMA fighter, 'Kerala Krusher' Rahul Raju is living an unlikely dream

Everyone, as the saying goes, has a plan until they get punched in the face. By the same principle, the time for Rahul Raju, to make an honest assessment of his career would have come in his fourth professional mixed martial arts fight. Competing in the Philippines against Reydon Romero, Raju caught a punch in the first round, shattering an orbital bone. Fighting on with a facial fracture, Raju recalls thinking to himself, "Well, this is the path I chose, now I have to deal with it. I finally realized what I was there to do," he says.

There wasn't a movie-quality happy ending to Raju's tale of perseverance on that day in January 2017. He fought through three rounds of agony and still ended up dropping a unanimous decision to the local fighter. But he saw a silver lining through it all. "Despite the injury, I fought one of my best fights ever. It was really painful and I had to have surgery immediately afterwards. Until that moment, there is always a question how badly you want something, and at that moment, I realized I really wanted it," says Raju.

'It', for Raju, was the dream to be a mixed martial arts fighter. Raju is a seasoned competitor now. Next Friday, he'll be looking to extend a two-fight win streak at ONE Championship and improve on a 7-4 record, when he takes on former title contender Amir Khan in a lightweight contest. When the 29-year-old, who goes by the moniker 'Kerala Krusher', thinks about his dream, he admits it was an unlikely one for a Kerala native who'd studied engineering and already had a well paying, white-collar job as a technician in a semiconductor plant in Singapore.

Kerala might be home to the ancient martial art tradition of Kalaripayattu, but there isn't much of a modern combat sports culture. Certainly not in the town of Pathanamthitta, in central Kerala where Raju grew up. "There were some boxing and wrestling training facilities but compared to North India or the North East, these were really few," he recalls.

The lack of opportunities didn't stop him from idolizing martial arts - usually in the form of movies. "I'd watch all the movies I could which had Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan," he recalls. His parents weren't too keen about his interest though. "There was a kung fu coaching center near my home and I used to beg my mother and father to let me join but they'd always tell me to focus on my studies or tell me they'd think about it later," he says.

Raju would get his wish through an unexpectedly fortuitous beating. "I got into a school fight, which ended up with me getting thrashed by a few seniors. I told my father it wouldn't have happened if I'd only got some martial arts training and the day after that incident, he enrolled me for my first class," Raju recalls with a laugh.

While he became a devoted practitioner, studies remained his first priority. He studied for a course in mechatronics - an engineering field that combines robotics, electronics, computer, telecommunications, systems, control, and product engineering. His studies would take him to the Temasek Polytechnic institute in Singapore, where he continued his training, albeit now in the Indonesian martial art of selat, which was popular at his institute.

It was in Singapore, in the final semester of his engineering course, that he was first introduced to mixed martial arts (MMA). It came through a poster that was put up in his selat training group, advertising an amateur MMA competition. The only thing he remembers of what it said were the words "no rules". "I'd never even heard of the sport until then. But I was really intrigued by the "no rules" concept. I'd gone to a lot of selat competitions but I felt there were too many restrictions. But this poster said you could punch, kick, grapple," he recalls.

Raju entered his name, and although he had never trained a day as a mixed martial artist, ended up winning. "There were rules that made things easier for me. You had to stand the fighters up after twenty seconds on the ground. That worked because I'd only trained as a striker all my life. In the final, I faced an actual MMA guy. I got taken down a couple of times and it was just brute strength with which I threw him off. After that fight I knew that if I had to beat others like that MMA fighter, if that opponent was a little better, I had no chance. I had to develop other skills. I had to learn jujitsu and wrestling," he says.

Raju walked into an MMA gym soon after. His initiation into the sport coincided with his first job, working in the semiconductor industry. There was little to complain about the latter, which was what his education had prepared him for. "I was an a senior technician in a chip manufacturing plant, testing the microchips for mobile phones. It was an interesting job," he admits. But even as his desire to excel in his sport grew, he found himself struggling to find the time to do both.

"I was doing my job but also training. I was also competing in my first amateur bouts then. It was nearly impossible to find a balance. I'd complete my shift and then rush out immediately to get to training. Often times I'd train without sleep because there wasn't any time. That caused so many injuries," he recalls. When I got the opportunity to start coaching in the gym, I took it.

Raju struggled to juggle his job and his passion for three years before eventually making the decision to focus entirely on MMA. "I got a job as a trainer at the same club where I trained and I made the decision to quit my job. My bosses and colleagues and friends were not that surprised because they knew how bad I wanted it. They saw I was coming to work without sleep and how I was running to the gym right after work. My parents were not happy. They told me to focus on my regular job. But I had a dream and I had to stay strong," he says.

Having made his choice, there were tradeoffs to be made. "The first few years were a struggle. As a trainer, I wasn't making anything like the money I did in my old job. I had to downgrade a lot of my needs and adjust my budget. I also couldn't socialize with my friends. If I'd made a decision to focus on my sport, I had to give it everything," he says.

The learning curve was steep. Over the first few months of his career, Raju's broken his collarbone and had several ligament issues. And that orbital eye fracture in the Philippines. There have been setbacks in the ring too. In his first fight at ONE Championship, a couple of years ago, Raju was caught with a counter right hook and knocked out in the first round.

His passion is undiminished though. "There have been moments of struggle. Losing in the first round was one of the lowest moments of my life. It brought out a lot of bad emotions, but as a fighter you have to put these things aside and remember why you are doing what you do. From my childhood, I wanted to be a fighter. More than just a profession, I wanted to be the alpha male in a group. I had to be the best. First, it was to be the best at the gym, and then it was to be the best in Singapore. Now it's to be the best at ONE Championship," he says.

On a two-fight winning streak now, Raju believes his career has turned the corner. His grappling game has improved significantly and he now has a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. "I'm probably one of only a handful of Indians who have this," he reckons.

His parents too have come around to their son's career choice. "It's taken time but they realized that I wasn't giving this up. They've become very supportive since then," he says. It wouldn't have mattered even if they hadn't, he says. "There are parts of India where a career in combat sports is considered acceptable. It's not the same in Kerala. It's a gradual change and while I'm happy when I am supported, I don't expect much," he says.

For now he's just glad to be chasing his own dream. "I don't regret anything that's happened to me. I consider myself very blessed to have left my old job. It's probably the best decision I made in my life," he says.

12 March 2020

Cristiano Ronaldo Team Mate Tests Positive For Coronavirus

Cristiano Ronaldo, en un partido con la Juventus.
Juventus, a football club based in Turin, a city in Piedmont situated just outside Italy's initial exclusion zone, just confirmed that center-back Daniele Rugani has tested positive for the coronavirus, though it's not yet clear who.
This is the first time a Serie A football club has confirmed that one of its top players has been infected.
And suddenly, it seems clear that Italian soccer's plan to ban fans at league contests is truly inadequate.
Immediately, most fans thoughts probably turned to Cristiano Ronaldo, the club's star player.
14 August 2015

FIFA Official On Talent Scout Mission in Mizoram

Aizawl, Aug 14 : FIFA's Regional Development Officer for South and Central Asia Shaji Prabhakaran on Thursday said that Mizoram was among the seven states in India where the governing body would launch the 'State Football Association Development Project'.

Prabhakaran told reporters here that the world football governing body would give logistical and financial support to the Mizoram Football Association (MFA) to formulate and undertake plans to develop football in this north eastern state.

"Mizoram should have sound strategic plan to develop football so that the FIFA would be able to support development of the game among the Mizos," he said.

The state's achievement in the field of football during the past few years was commendable, the FIFA official said, adding that Mizoram has the potential to turn the Football powerhouse of the country.

Prabhakaran, FIFA Technical Director for South East Asia Region Vincent Subramaniam, All India Football Federation (AIFF) I-League CEO Sunando Dhar and AIFF Course Instructor and Development Officer Savio Medeira were in Mizoram for three days in a fact finding mission on the project.
10 August 2015

Meet Dipa Karmakar: From a flat-footed 6-year-old to India's top female gymnast

Fifteen years back when Tripura state gymnastics coach Bishweshwar Nandi took a 6-year-old girl from SAI center under his wing, he knew he'd found a winner. Fast forward to 2015, Nandi is lost for words on how proud he is of his charge, Indian gymnastic star Dipa Karmakar, who won bronze at the recently concluded Asian Championships in Japan.

"I am very proud of what I achieved in Hiroshima," Dipa told Firstpost. "I finished behind two gymnasts [China's Yang Wan and Japan's Sae Miyakawa] both of whom have been very competitive in the Youth Olympics."

The bronze at Hiroshima comes a year after she created history by becoming India's first ever women gymnast to win a Commonwealth medal, when she clinched bronze - again at the Vault table - in the 2014 Glasgow games.

"I still remember Dipa coming to me as a flat-footed kid, which is not good for a gymnast. It affects the spring in her jump," Nandi told Firstpost. "That was the hardest part to fix for Dipa, we had to work very, very hard when she was a little kid to get the curve in her feet."

"Only after coach Nandi corrected my flat foot, my journey began," adds Dipa saying she would be nothing today if not for her coach.

But since then, the desire to work hard has not diminished for the Agartala girl.

"I was so young when I tried gymnastics for the first time. My father was a SAI coach and he wanted me to try it, so I just went along with him. I wasn't really that interested in the beginning," Dipa said. "But in 2007 when I won at the Junior Nationals in Jalpaiguri I started gaining interest."
Then came the turning-point for Dipa. She was part of the 2010 Indian gymnastics contingent in the Delhi Commonwealth Games where, as a participant, she saw Ashish Kumar create history by winning India's first ever gymnastic medals at the games. "That's when I told myself I will win it for India in Glasgow four years down the line," said Dipa.

And so she did it in Glasgow - the same place where she is headed soon for the World Championships that begin in October and is a qualifying event for Rio 2016.

"I am working hard for the Worlds now. That is all my focus in on now It is a very tough event - all the top players will be there. Last time I finished 10th but now I am practising harder with increased difficulty levels. I am hoping to put my best effort and see if I can make it to the Olympics," she said.

As she prepares for the World Championships, Dipa trains from 9 am - 12: 30 pm and 5 - 8:30 pm every day - hoping to improve on her performance in Hiroshima.
The event from where the gymnasts who finish on the podium qualify directly for the Olympics is her toughest challenge yet. As she turns 22 on 9 August, she is growing 'old' by the standards seen in Gymnastics these days. The Gold and Silver medallists in the Hiroshima event were both 15-year-olds. But she doesn't see that as an issue.

"I still feel at the top of my game. There was an Olympian in 2012 who competed with the best when he was 39 years old! I still feel I have 5-6 years left in my game, no problem," she says with confidence. It's because there is still a place for
power gymnastics in international events, explains Nandi.

"Desire, hunger to do well in gymnastics. Dipa has that. She told me once 'Whatever you want me to do, I will not say no to you coach'," and except when she loses her temper with me, she has kept her word," Nandi laughed.

"Yes, I am a bit short-tempered," Dipa agreed with a sheepish grin. "I get angry a lot - some times at the coach when something he tells doesn't work but most times at myself for not doing the routine correctly. (I) Never get angry at my parents but when I am trying my coach is my father and mother, and we have gotten used to it," she adds.

Like with many other not-so-popular sports in India, 58-year-old Nandi said that gymnastics still has a long way to go before there are more like Ashish and Dipa. "Starting late last year, we had no facilities to practice at all for eight full months, because of problems with the federation. All we did was personal training, but without equipment Dipa lost eight months of training time," said Nandi.

"But thankfully, SAI (Sports Authority of India) organised a camp for two months starting June. I can honestly say without that camp Dipa would not have won Bronze in Hiroshima. Despite problems, we are grateful for what help we get from authorities," he said.

Dipa, who says she has been training at the vault table harder than ever, concurred that things have been different since she won the medal at Glasgow.

"Things have changed now. Before Glasgow, Indians hardly knew our women participated in gymnastics. Now they know there is someone who won a medal. Before, no one knew my name. Today, slowly and steadily, more and more people know there is someone called Dipa Karmakar," she said before excusing herself for her second training session of the day.
24 July 2015

Mizoram Athletes to participate in Special Olympics

Special Olympics world gamesAizawl, Jul 24 : Six athletes from the northeastern state of Mizoram would participate in the Special Olympics starting from July 25 in Los Angeles, it was announced here on Monday.

A Mizoram sports department release said six athletes and their team leader from Mizoram will be among the 301 athletes representing India at the Special Olympics.

It said the athletes from Mizoram will compete in the eleven-a-side football, seven-a-side unified football, 100 metres race and 200 metres race.

Mizoram Governor Lt. Gen. Nirbhay Sharma (retd) on Monday flagged off the journey of the athletes bound for Los Angeles.

US First Lady Michelle Obama will declare open the nine-day Games on July 25.
12 June 2015

If fear stays, may leave Manipur: Mary Kom

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Being constantly on the move, the 33-year-old mother said she spends a lot of time worrying about the situation at home.

Last Thursday, five-time world champion Mary Kom was exercising here when she heard that 18 Army personnel had been killed by militants in her home state. The news left her troubled, as it brought back memories of past violence. Worried about insurgency in Manipur and the safety of her three children, the boxer has, of late, been thinking of moving out of the state.

“It’s very difficult to decide whether to stay there or shift to some other state. I have my family there and also my academy. But we cannot continue to live in constant fear. If the problem persists, then let’s see, I may leave the state,” Mary told The Indian Express in Bangalore, where she is training for next year’s world championships which will also serve as Rio Olympics qualifiers.
Being constantly on the move, the 33-year-old mother said she spends a lot of time worrying about the situation at home. “We are all scared. Killings, blasts… nobody likes it. I have children now, but there is always stress and tension. When I was a child, I saw how difficult it is to live in such a situation. Let’s stop killing each other,” said Mary.

“Over the last couple of decades, we have suffered. The constant violence disrupts your life completely. It had reduced significantly for a few years, but is now back again,” she said.

Asian Games bronze medallist Sarita Devi, who is also from Manipur, said the news was “disturbing”. “Such news is disturbing, especially since there was no such thing happening for a long time. This was sudden. We are all peace-loving people (in Manipur), we don’t like these things. We lose sleep. We grew up at a time when our movements were restricted because of this (violence). We hope our children don’t face the same problem,” she said.
29 May 2015

John Picks up 95pc Stakes at Northeast United

By Marcus Mergulhao

Panaji, May 29 : John Abraham put money where his mouth is by picking up an astronomical 95 per cent of the stakes at NorthEast United FC.

The Bollywood actor has often spoken of his abundant love for the beautiful game and remains as football-obsessed as they come. More proof was provided when it emerged that he had picked up an overwhelming majority of the stakes at the north eastern franchise of the Indian Super League.

"For all practical purposes, you can call me the sole owner," the Bollywood star said while speaking exclusively to TOI at his office in Mumbai on Thursday.

According to sources, the remaining five per cent of the stakes are owned by two of John's friends.

John's stakes at NorthEast United have risen considerably after Shillong Lajong FC decided to offload its holding to focus on grassroot and youth development in the north eastern region.

"Lajong has decided to sell its stake in NorthEast United to focus on our principal vision of building our youth development programs," said Larsing Ming Sawyan, managing director of the club.

The ISL has eight franchisees and barring Delhi Dynamos, all franchisees have either a Bollywood star or star cricketer providing the glamour quotient. In India where celebrity is king, it's no surprise to see the likes of Sachin Tendulkar (Kerala Blasters), Sourav Ganguly (Atletico de Kolkata), MS Dhoni (Chennaiyin FC), Virat Kohli (FC Goa), Hrithik Roshan (Pune City FC) and Ranbir Kapoor (Mumbai City FC) lending their name and face to the franchise.

None of the celebrity owners, though, have invested in the franchise as much as John. Most have anything between four and 12 percent stakes, while Tendulkar enjoys a considerably larger share -- understood to be 40 percent -- at Kerala Blasters.

"We have a great working relationship and Ming is a dear friend. But we parted ways. Ming needed to continue working with Shillong Lajong and I wanted to focus on NorthEast. We are showing support to each other and still source our players from the club but it's a fact we wanted to reach out to a larger north east," said John.

"NorthEast United belongs to the people of the north east. John is only a facilitator. When people talk about clubs and ownerships, my name is taken first with NorthEast and that's only because of my passion for football. It is my responsibility to build a winning team for the future," he said.

NorthEast United finished at the bottom of the eight-team league table in the inaugural edition but have now set out to correct the wrongs with the appointment of Bruno Satin and Simon Festinesi -- representatives of the London based Base Soccer -- as technical directors.
12 May 2015

Mizoram: Nation’s Emerging Soccer Power

Guwahati, May 12 : Mizoram has a tremendous track record in national football championships. They won the sub-junior national title (Mir Iqbal Hussain Trophy), junior national title (Dr BC Roy Trophy) and most importantly the Santosh Trophy in 2014. All eyes are now on Mizoram for their soccer talent.

Now a team from the tiny State, Aizawl Football Club, have qualified to play in the National I-League, after emerging top at the national B Division I-League. In the two-leg championship held at Siliguri and Assam, the Mizo outfit confirmed their title on May 6 at Golaghat after defeating their statemate Chandmari Football Club 4-2. After the penultimate tie they scored unassailable 31 points and in the match of academic interest on Saturday, they trounced Mohammedan Sporting Club of Kolkata 4-2 to raise their points to 33.

It was a historic achievement for Mizoram. The team will now play in the top tire of the I-League next year. It is the fourth team from the north-eastern States to play in the I-League. Three teams from the NE – Shillong Lajong FC, Royal Wahingdoh and Rangdajied Unite FC – all from Meghalaya have qualified for the elite tournament of the Indian football.

Mizoram has a tremendous set-up at the grass-root level. They now have three artificial football pitches, two at Aizawl and one at Lunglei. The fourth one is coming up at Champhai. Secretary of the Mizoram Football Association (MFA) Lalnghinglova Hmar seems to be a very energetic man who works from dawn to dusk for the cause of Mizoram football.

The MFA has introduced the Mizoram Premier League in 2012 and the highly competitive championship has been instrumental in producing a batch of graded players. Till last year, 85 Mizo footballers were playing in I-League and now the numbers will be much more.

Ask FIFA’s regional director Shaji Prabhakaran, the man who oversaw the implementation of the successful Vision Manipur, one of the first pilot programmes of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in the country. He said Mizoram’s triumph, (winning Santosh Trophy in 2014) is a success for the programme.

“The rise of North Eastern football started with Vision Manipur in 2005. It was highly successful as they were able to put together a strong purposeful league. Now Mizoram will inspire more and more smaller States,” Prabhakaran, who was the director when Vision Manipur was implemented, told IANS in an interview last year.

Mizoram dominated the Subroto Cup football tournament which is regarded as one of the nation’s football nursuries. The youngsters of the Mizoram school teams play very fast football. They are accurate in every skills of the game and it proves that the organisers and coaches at the grass-root level are very much keen in making the kids perfect in basics.

It is high time for the Assam Football Association (AFA) to take out a leaf from the success story of their Mizoram counterpart. The AFA will launch the new format of the Assam State Premier League tomorrow which should have been far ahead. The infrastructure in Assam is also far from adequete. The Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium has became the star attraction for football organisers. It was developed by the Reliance Group last year for the Indian Super League. Now almost all the tournaments are organised on this venue. If things go on like this, the renovated ground will get its old form soon.
26 February 2015

Mizoram Eye 3rd Consecutive National Gold at Santosh Trophy

Mizoram, Santosh Trophy, Santosh Trophy Football, Football Santosh Trophy, Football News, Football Mizoram keeps its fingers crossed for the the third consecutive national gold.

Aizawl, Feb 26 : Defending champions Mizoram left from state capital Aizawl on Wednesday to take part at the Santosh Trophy to be played in Punjab. The state keeps its fingers crossed for the the third consecutive national gold – Mizoram won last year’s Santosh Trophy and bagged gold in the just-concluded National Games.

Mizoram beat both Meghalaya (3-0) and Tripura (2-0) in the qualifiers held at Assam to proceed to the Santosh Trophy’s final round, where the team will face Railways, Goa, Kerala and Delhi in the group matches.

The team features five fresh faces but all hopes are pinned on captain Zico Zoremsanga (who scored 9 goals last year) and F. Lalrinpuia alias Valpuia (who scored 5 goals).
06 February 2015

Mizoram Makes Semis in Style

By P. K. Ajith Kumar

MID-FIELD ACTION: Mizoram's M.S. Dawngliana (right) dribbles past Punjab players Gurtej Singh and Arshdeep Singh (left). Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup

MID-FIELD ACTION: Mizoram's M.S. Dawngliana (right) dribbles past Punjab players Gurtej Singh and Arshdeep Singh (left). Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup
They may have been up against taller, stronger men, but the spirited young footballers from Mizoram beat them with speed and skill. The 2-0 win also made them the first to reach the men’s football semifinals of the National Games.
Punjab had its moments at the Corporation Stadium on Wednesday night, but Mizoram played superior football. Punjab is still very much in contention though to take the second semifinal spot from Pool ‘B’, having scored a victory over Services.
Services, earlier in the day, drew with Bengal 2-2. Those two teams have just one point apiece. Just two matches remain in the pool, Mizoram v Services and Punjab v Bengal. Both those games will be played on Friday.
Both Mizoram and Punjab had their chances in the opening half, but with good defending on either side, the score-sheet was blank at the interval. In the second half, Mizoram continued to move forward at a brisker pace and went in front in the 57th minute, as a long-ranger from captain David Lalrinmuana beat the Punjabi goalkeeper Jagroop Singh.
Punjab was rattled by that goal. But, there was more to come. In the 72nd minute, the diminutive M.S. Dawngliana, who had substituted for Laldampuia, came up with a stunning header off a splendid corner kick taken by Lalrinmuana. It could have been 3-0 five minutes later, but Alber Zohmingmawia missed the target narrowly after a fine, quick run down the right.
The results: Pool ‘B’: Mizoram 2 (David Lalrinmuana 57, M.S. Dawngliana 72) bt Punjab 0.
Services 2 (Arjun Tudu 11, Sandip Rai 33) drew with Bengal 2 (Javed Ansari 44, Subojit Majumdar 78).
03 February 2015

Bright Start by Mizoram

By P. K. Ajith Kumar

INTENSE ACTION: Phool Chand Hembram (white jersey) of West Bengal and Mizoram's Albert Zohmingmawia (jersey no. 11) fight for the ball. Photo: S. Ramesh

INTENSE ACTION: Phool Chand Hembram (white jersey) of West Bengal and Mizoram's Albert Zohmingmawia (jersey no. 11) fight for the ball. Photo: S. Ramesh
Mizoram showed why it is the team to watch out for in National football at the moment. It opened its campaign in the men’s football event of the National Games with a convincing 2-0 victory over Bengal, which had won gold in the last edition of the Games held in 2011.
Mizoram’s relentless attacks and all-round skills were just too good for Bengal at the Corporation Stadium on Monday.
Mizoram succeeded in putting early pressure on the Bengal goal taking the lead in the 15th minute. Receiving a pass from R. Malsawmtluanga, David Lalrinmuana cut swiftly into the box, went past a couple of defenders and placed the ball over the advancing Bengal goalkeeper Raju Ganguly.
In the second half, too, it was the red shirts of Mizoram who showed more urgency. With B. Zoramthara, Albert Zohminmawia and Rohminthanga, coming in for the injured Malsawmtluanga, making life difficult for the Bengal defenders, a second goal was always in the air.
After missing out on a few scoring opportunities, Mizoram finally made it 2-0 in the 71st minute through Laldampuia.
In the other Pool-A match, Punjab scored a comfortable 3-0 win over Services.
Punjab went ahead when Ravinder Singh curled in a 30-yard free-kick in the 37th minute. In the 41st minute, Ajay Singh finished off a move that also featured Harjinder Singh Sr. and Sajandeep Singh. The final nail in the Services coffin came from Rajbir Singh in the 81st minute.
The results: Pool A: Punjab 3 (Ravinder Singh 36, Ajay Singh 41, Rajbir Singh 81) bt Services 0; Mizoram 2 (David Lalrinmuana 15, Laldampuia 71) bt Bengal 0.
21 November 2014

M C Mary Kom Receives Rs 5 Lakh For Boxing Academy

Star Indian woman boxer M C Mary Kom today received Rs 5 lakh for setting up a boxing academy in her native state of Manipur from a private insurance company through its initiative "Need for Champions".

The London Olympic Games bronze medal winner received the cheque with her husband Onler and thanked "Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance" for supporting her career from early on through its philanthropic arm - Edelgive.

"Sponsors' support is very important for getting medals and producing champions. Through my academy I will be trying to not only produce boxers from Manipur but from all over India," said the five-time world champion who won the 51kg Asian Games gold medal in Incheon last month.

"After seven years women's boxing is becoming tougher with more and more competition at the Olympic Games, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games," said the Manipur star. "Women's boxing is being recognised in the country because of my hard work, dedication and determination to the sport," she added.

Former India hockey captain Viren Rasquinha, who is the CEO of not-for-profit sports promotion organisation Olympic Gold Quest said that among the list of OGQ-supported athletes, the Manipur boxer "is most recognised".