Imphal: When it comes to sports, youth from the northeast exhibit an almost unmatched passion.
Recently, people turned out in large numbers to watch famous football players of the country play an exhibition match in Imphal.
It was a golden opportunity for football lovers of Manipur to see their favorites like Baichung Bhutia, Rennedy Singh, Sunil Chettri and Jeje, live in action.
Thousands thronged the Khuman Lampak stadium here to witness the two exhibition matches played between the Football Players` Association of India led by Bhutia and MDS Chargers XI led by Rennedy Singh.
Chief Minister O. Ibobi Singh inaugurated the exhibition match, held under the theme of "Friendship and Development of Youth".
The match was organized by the Manipur Development Society in association with All Manipur Football Association and Football Edges, Kolkata.
"We are trying to bring the big players, the stars of India here, to show how important they are to Manipur and how dear Manipur is to the game of football," said Y Ningthem Singh.
"The kind of football craze the state has, the amount of football players it produces, it is very good. We don`t get opportunity to come and play in Manipur. This is one opportunity, through the players association of India. All we big players thought that we will come and play here to encourage the young players," said Baichung Bhutia.
The exhibition matches concluded the two-month-long residential football development programme being conducted at the stadium since May 1.
The training programme aimed at nurturing young sporting talent by giving them a platform to hone their skills. Under the programme, the youngsters got a chance to be trained by two international coaches, Stephen David Darby and Milan Milovanovic.
"I am very happy with what the MDS is doing, bringing foreign coaches and all. If they keep this process continuous, it will surely benefit the players of Manipur as well as Indian football," said Rennedy Singh.
The youth of Manipur are naturally good at sports, and if groomed properly they can make their mark at the national and international level.
Cricket is a religion in India but we will grow very fast and we will go a long way. I am happy to be playing with some of the best Indian players in ISL.