IMPHAL, Sept 16: Ngamgouhou Mate, who led the Under-16 Indian football team to victory at the South Asian Football Federation championship in Bhutan’s capital Thimpu recently, said he was yet to meet his parents since returning to his home state Manipur four days ago.
The teenager told PTI, “I reached Kangpokpi on September 12 and have been living in a relief camp there. Though it has been four days since I reached the state, I am yet to meet my father and mother. This is a heartfelt sadness which I have.”
India’s U-16 team won the SAFF U-16 Championship by beating Bangladesh 2-0 in the title clash in Thimpu on Sunday.
Manipur’s Bharat Lairenjam (8th minute) found the net in the first half, while Levis Zangminlun (74th), also from the same state, sealed the victory with a second-half goal at the Changlimithang Stadium. The 23-member squad of the U-16 Indian national team had at least thirteen players from Manipur.
“I started playing football from a very young age and later joined Classic Football Academy in Imphal for training back in 2021,” the team’s captain, Mate, said.
“I wish to become a professional football player of international repute,” Mate, who plays midfield for the country, said, adding one of his favourite international players is Spain’s Rodrigo.
Sharing his Bhutan experience, Mate said, “In the first match against Bangladesh, we faced breathing issues in the first half due to high altitude, but gradually adjusted to the conditions in the second half.”
Mate, lovingly called Albert by his father Kapa Lal, said he desperately prays for the return of peace in the state.
Hailing from Zion village near Pallel in Tengnoupal district, Mate’s father Kapa Lal told PTI, “To facilitate his football training and education of his elder sister, we rented a house at my elder brother’s place in Khongsai Veng in Imphal.”
“I had also bought a two-wheeler for my son to enable him to go for his training, but unfortunately that was vandalised in the violence,” Kapa Lal said.
“When violence broke out in May, it was a heart-breaking moment as I was not with my children in Imphal and my daughter had to stay on the premises of the 2nd Manipur Rifles for at least four days before she was evacuated.” (PTI)