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Meitei and Kuki players unite to help India win SAFF U-16 Football Championship

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Imphal, Sept 11: Amidst the simmering ethnic tensions in Manipur, two young talents from the strife-torn State have emerged as the pride of India. In an exceptional display of skill and unity, a goal each by a Meitei and a Kuki player helped India clinch the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) under-16 championship trophy.

Meitei and Kuki players unite to help India win SAFF U-16 Football Championship

Out of the 23 players representing the Indian squad, 16 hail from Manipur. Among them, 11 are Meiteis, with Kuki players numbering at 4, and a lone Meitei Pangal (Manipuri Muslim community).

Bharat Lairenjam, hailing from Nambol in Bishnupur district, set the stage ablaze with a phenomenal goal in the 8th minute. Levis Zangminlun, a resident of Churachandpur, sealed the victory for India with a spectacular strike in the 74th minute during the final face-off against Bangladesh in Thimphu, Bhutan, on Sunday (September 10, 2023).

Despite the heart wrenching tragedy back home, these players transcended the adversities and sorrow and focused on a singular focus of clinching the championship, and shared laughter and meals in between.

An elated Bharat described his goal as the “highlight of the championship.” He emphasized the unity that prevailed among players from diverse backgrounds, attributing their success to the team spirit.

Levis, who contributed the crucial second goal, confessed to initial nerves but triumphed on the field. He acknowledged football as the common thread that bound them, enabling them to rise above their differences.

Levis joined the Hyderabad academy just last year and has already made a mark for himself in the football circle.

Abbas Shingjamayum, the Meitei Pangal player who secured the titles of “Most Valuable Player” and “Top Scorer” with three goals, underscored the team’s unwavering focus on the game, steering clear of discussions regarding the conflicts in Manipur.

Lairikyengbam Jyotirmoy Roy, the General Secretary of the All Manipur Football Association (AMFA), hailed the Indian team’s triumph, underscoring how in the realm of sports, ethnicity holds no sway, as demonstrated by the SAFF U-16 championship squad.

Also Read: India beat Bangladesh by 2-0 to emerge as the SAFF U16 Champions

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