By Nilanjan Datta,
AIFF Media Team
NEW DELHI: Who is your favourite Indian Football Player?
Lalrindika Ralte smiles, raises his hand and keeps it on Shlo Malsawmtluanga’s shoulder sitting next. “He’s my favourite Footballer,” Dika states. “He is our Godfather, the Godfather of all Mizo Fotballers.”
“Godfather!” Malsawmtluanga bursts into laughter. “I didn’t know I am that old,” and this time, they both burst out.
“Do you have anything in common,” you ask.
The two Mizo generations, if we can label them, look at each other. “He inspired me. In fact, he still inspires us and will inspire all future generations. I owe a lot to him,” Dika quips. “Ours is a different society in Mizoram. It’s a small place and everyone is Football crazy. But taking up Football as a career is entirely different from playing the sport! In that sense, Malsawmtluanga is our Godfather,” Dika clarifies.
This time, Mama joins in. “There’s always that perception that playing is waste of time. Studies, most feel, is much better. I don’t want to go into any debate. All I want to say is that both are different and can earn you a living,” the Godfather prophesies.
“But when I first started to play and used to be flooded by questions back in Mizoram about the scenario of Mizo Players moving to Clubs to play the sport, I never believed that there would be such an influx of Mizo Footballers at the National level,” Malsawmtluanga prompts.
“Jerry Zirsanga has donned the Senior India Colours, so have Jeje Lalpekhlua and Dika. I expect some more from the junior age-group Teams to follow suit.”
For the record, the India U-19 National Team, coached by Colm Joseph Toal, who played in the AFC U-19 Championship in October boasted of five Mizo Players in the squad of 23. The supply-line stays ready to take over.
And then the Godfather prefers to hoodwink his follower. “Do you know that Lalrindika and Jeje has a huge female fan following back home in Mizoram? They are local heartthrobs.”
Lalrindika, who stays proud of his unbeaten record in wrestling bouts with all his Teammates, tries to catch Malsawmtluanga unaware. And then, both burst out again.
“Football in Mizoram is different. At a Football Match, you will find a lot of ladies thronging the galleries,” Mama informs. “Unless you have the fairer sex getting involved, the popularity can never grow.”
“There are also a lot number of advertisements involving Dika and Jeje,” Mama states.
“He didn’t mention his own name,” Dika pinches Mama.
“Yeah, we endorse a lot many local brands,” Dika informs.
Even as Dika’s scorcher against Mohun Bagan has gone viral on the internet, we discover the softer side of him, the concern for community development. “Once Dika paid Rs. 25000 for the U-19 boys to but their kits,” Mama pronounces.
“Well it’s not only me. We try to help our society which has given so much to us,” Dika takes over. Once there was a landslide in our region where 11 people had died. We decided to play a Charity Match and collected Rs. one lakh which was distributed. Godfather, Jeje were all part of it.”
“Our region needs more Hospitals. If we can contribute towards it, we would feel blessed,” both nod together. There’s silence in the room.
“Mama guides us to save for the rainy day,” Dika says. “He advices us where to invest.”
“One has to,” experienced Mama speaks. “I have seen so many Players earn so much and then spend without keeping a tab. I don’t want it to happen to us. But money should never be the priority. We need to continue in the same manner. If they can, money won’t ever stay a constraint. That’s what I tell them.”
“He’s my Godfather,” Dika smiles. And both burst out in laughter.
Posted on : Monday November 25, 2013