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A Footballer, A Journalist & Now A Chief Minister : What Will Biren Singh Do For Manipur's Football?

Tuesday, 14 March 2017|Free Kick

For many teenagers in Manipur, Okram Ibobi Singh is the only Chief Minister of the state they have heard of or read about. For, he had been the CM of the state for 3 consecutive terms, in fact, the only CM in the history of Manipur to complete one single term also.

Those teenagers have by now heard or read about Biren Singh, the new Chief Minister of Manipur. Biren, 56, is at the helm of the BJP led 4 party coalition government and have become the 12th Chief Minister of the stiff-torn but yet the beautiful state of Manipur.

Biren had his schooling from Srivan High School in Silchar and is an alumnus of the Manipur University. Like every boy in Manipur, he too was always attracted to the beautiful game and played for fun.

Never did he knew that he would be playing at the biggest level of Indian Football, representing Border Security Force, Jalandhar. His foray into the top echelon of Indian Football was before the birth of the National Football League. He did miss the revolution but cherished golden moments of his footballing career - the most memorable one being the Durand Cup final against East Bengal in 1991.

With football not being a lucrative career back then and holding guns not being his forte, he resigned from BSF and took up the PEN to fight the ailing condition of Manipur. He soon became the editor of a vernacular daily Naharolgi Thoudang.

A journalist with a courageous approach, he was fearless with his editorials and have even been sent to jail by the Manipur government.

Since the turn of the millennium, he started taking a keen interest in politics and quickly made a foray into it. Representing Heingang constituency since 2002 in Imphal East, Biren was elected for the first time on the ticket of Democratic Revolutionary People’s Party and later on joined the Congress.

He went on to become the minister for irrigation and flood control during the second term of Okram Ibobi Singh led Secular Progressive Front coalition before being handed the additional portfolio of Youth Affairs and Sports during Ibobi’s 3rd term.

“I must become an MLA to serve the people effectively. So I am resigning from journalism,” Biren Singh had said during the announcement of his decision to join active politics.

However, differences cropped up and he switched his allegiance to BJP in October 2016 and walked his way to the top to become the chief minister yesterday.

“It was a vote for change and I will bring change and good governance in Manipur,” A beaming Biren was quoted by The Imphal Free Press.

While good governance and changes have got larger implications, the immediate change that would strike well with the youths of Manipur is to improve the ailing condition of the state’s football.

Manipur is a football-loving state with talented youths found in every household. Just that proper grooming is absent and platform to rise to the top is limited. Those Manipuri footballers who have made it to the top are the lucky ones but not the best ones. Many have lingered around in the state for decades and many are still doing so because of limited opportunities.

With Biren being a footballer himself, youths are expecting him to take a keen interest in developing the game, which has been at an all-time low when other states have been making giant strides.

https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gifMizoram, a small neighbouring state have as many as six artificial turfs while Manipur has just got one. At least one artificial turf in every district of the state wouldn’t be a humongous task with one international standard government-sponsored football academy in Imphal with feeder academies in each district.

Football is a way of life in Manipur and we have all seen how the game has changed lives around the world. Developing the game could also serve as one means to end the menace of youths taking up guns as an alternative career - by large the most attractive and easiest means to earn in Manipur presently.

It now remains to be seen how the new Chief Minister, who is the “Face of Change” in Manipur brings about the change that the people of Manipur are hoping for.

The writer tweets at @I_Babua