The Assam Sports Journalists Association conducted a Seminar On Football In The North East and Shillong Lajong FC,which was part of the Annual Convention of the Sports Journalists Federation Of India,on the 21st March 2012,at the Landmark Hotel,in Guwahati.
The night started with a talk by Prashant Baruah. Commenting on football he said that it is like a household sport in the North East,where each and every member knows the game,and at least one member plays the game,be it any level.He further stated that football has improved with time,and there is more opportunities for aspiring footballers of the region,paving the way for financial stability,by taking up the game as one’s profession.He also reiterated that the North East has always had a huge fan following.
When commenting on the quality of football in Assam and the North East in general,he said that in Assam,there is a dearth of quality coaching,less co-ordination,and this can be seen in the North East too,with the exception of Shillong Lajong FC,who have brought glory and fame to the North East.He also pointed out the footballing talent of Manipur.He closed his speech by stating that Assam will do well,if it can follow the footsteps of Shillong Lajong and Manipur.
The next speaker who spoke on the occasion was Ankur dutta, Vice President of AIFF and Secretary of Assam Football Association.He started off by stressing on the need for football development in the state.He further reinstated Baruah’s point that football is indeed the most popular sport in the region.Indian football which,has for long been dominated by footballers and clubs from Goa and Bengal,is now witnessing a change,with more and more footballers and clubs emerging from the North East,with the best example being Shillong Lajong.He also stated that India,which is bidding for the under -17 World in 2017, might select Guwahati as one of the potential venues.His speech ended with his announcing of a North East Premier League,in the near future.
Debashish Roy, prominent Bengal footballer, mentioned his many achievements, which include captaining the Bengal team in 1986,and also his unique feat of scoring 9 goals against Maldives. He also pointed that Indian football has improved when compared to his generation, with much better infrastructure and financial support. He closed his speech by saying that he believed Shillong Lajong can go on and win the I-League someday.
Shillong Lajong General Secretary, Larsing M Sawyan, who was the evening’s special guest, closed the function with a presentation and a talk on Football in India and Shillong Lajong FC in particular.In his speech.Mr.Sawyan highlighted the impact of Football in India,and how it has ascended to being the No.2 sport in the country. He further stated that the time is now for football to consolidate its position and ascertain it as India’s no.1 sport. India being a growing economy, along with China has a huge scope and potential for further development of the game. He also mentioned how the younger generation is now taking a keen interest in football, and how people’s mindsets are starting to trend towards football in general,and is slowly but surely becoming the “Next Big Thing in India sporting history”.
Mr.Sawyan also highlighted on MNC’s capitalisation of Football,with the most prominent being Pepsi,who are replacing Cricket,which has for long been India’s passion,with Football.They are shifting the focus on football,with emphasis on the Youth of India. India and China are now enjoying special attention and focus from FIFA,and India is all geared up to welcome the sport,with its bidding for the UNDER-17 FIFA World Cup,in 2017.According to Sepp Blatter,FIFA President, India is a “Sleeping Giant” of Football,and will not leave FIFA until and unless football is well and truly establish in India.
The Shillong Lajong General Secretary also pointed out that different international clubs are looking up to India for scouting talent and promoting the game,and their own clubs. Clubs like Manchester Utd,Bayern Munich,Tottenham,Arsenal,and Sheffield Utd have all ventured into India,with special co-ordination and co-operation from the local teams.
When speaking about football in the North East region,Mr.Sawyan quoted Novy Kapadia in saying”North East India is the goldmine of Indian Football’.And all this started when Tata Football Academy,the country’s premier football academy,started recruiting aspiring footballers from the region.According to Mr.Sawyan,almost all I league teams have had North East representation,despite no State in the region boasting of a proper league setup.
The highlight of the evening was of course a special presentation on Shillong Lajong FC,which had the club’s history,achievements,and accomplishments and a detailed insight into the Club,both from a footballing and a commercial aspect.The Club,being the first from the North east to make it to the coveted I-League,has been the talk of footballing circles in the North East,and Mr.Sawyan’s presentation highlighted the Club’s footballing activities,its Community Initiatives,and its various Youth-centric programs,which was the focus of the seminar.
Mr.Larsing M Sawyan further stated that it is time for India to move on from Cricket and give importance to football,and stressed the need for a better setup,infrastructure and overall development of the game.He ended by saying that the time is now to think beyond the tried and tested formulas and methods,and for Shillong Lajong FC,it is time to conquer India and beyond.