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Neroca Looking Forward To Meeting Aizawl In The I-League: Naoba Thangjam Singh

Monday, 5 June 2017|Abhishek Mukherjee
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Manipur has always been a breeding ground for top quality footballers, having produced the likes of Renedy Singh, Gourmangi, Jackichand, Udanta and many more. But Manipur lacked a team at the top division. But now with the emergence of Neroca FC, for the first time, we will have a team from Manipur in the I-League. In a freewheeling interview with Feverpitch, Neroca FC Director Naoba Thangjam Singh spoke at length about his team, I-League, Manipur, Aizawl FC, the merger and much more.
EXCERPTS:  

Let's start from the beginning. Tell us about Neroca's journey from the start of the season?
At the start of the season, we participated in the Durand Cup, where our main aim was to build the squad. We performed beyond expectations there, just narrowly missing out on the trophy in the finals. 

Then we went on to boss the Manipur State League, where we were the unbeaten champs. Moving on to the 2nd Division, we basically did the same thing there too. 

Last season we finished 3rd in the 2nd Division I-League. Then we all sat down and decided that this year our full focus will be to win the league. I am happy everything worked out as planned. 

What impact will this win have on Manipur football?
This win will have a huge impact. Manipur has always been overflowing with talent. Now with Neroca playing in the I-League, it gives the players a platform to showcase their talent. 

We have previously seen that the prodigal sons of Manipur have left the state for better footballing opportunities. Now with Neroca in the I-League, can you expect to bring them back?
Definitely. Manipur is a football factory. We have had a lot of players who left the state to play football. Now with a team from Manipur playing in the I-League, we will definitely see a lot of players returning to Manipur. We have already spoken to some of the players and they too have shown a lot of interest. 

Now tell us something about the team. Are you planning to retain the team which took you to the I-League or you might go for a revamp?
We will be retaining almost the entire team, 20 players out of the 26 to be exact. Out of the three foreigners, we will be keeping 2 of them. 

Your thoughts on current I-League champions Aizawl FC? 
Aizawl have done a tremendous job. Congratulations to them. It's not every day that two teams from the NE win the I-League and the 2nd Division in the same season. Both Mizoram and Manipur are the footballing hubs of the country. So we look forward to meeting them in the I-League. 

The issue everybody seems to be talking about these days is the merger. What's your take on it?
Right now we have a very blurry picture. Hopefully, we will have a better view after the AFC meeting on 7th. If the merger indeed happens then it will be interesting to see how AIFF does it.  

Do you believe that having two parallel leagues is a good idea? 
Absolutely. Parallel leagues will be good for Indian football. Earlier players used to play in both I-League and ISL while some young talented player had to sit out. Now with two leagues running simultaneously, it will give the youngsters an opportunity to perform. We can unearth a lot of young talent if that happens.