Manipur gives heroes' welcome to hockey athletes amid tension

Imphal: Manipur’s Asian Games medalists return to a heroes’ welcome on Wednesday, but the ongoing conflict in the state casts a shadow over their celebrations.

Shanglakpam Nilakanta Sharma, Pukhrambam Sushila Chanu and Kharibam Bichu Devi, who were part of the National team for men and women hockey at the Asian Games, received a rousing welcome by family members, friends and well-wishers as they arrived at Imphal International Airport.

Speaking to media persons, Indian field hockey player, Shanglakpam Nilakanta Sharma, expressed concerned over the ongoing unrest in the state.

“When we got the Olympic medal, we come back proudly and confidently as sons and daughters of Manipur. But this time, despite securing the gold medal, the situation in the state has clouded the mood overall,” said Sharma.

Talking about the historic performance at the 19th Asian Games Hangzhou in China, the Arjuna awardee said, “It was a team effort that we could win at the Asian Games.”

Meanwhile, Sushila Chanu and Bichu Devi, who were part of the Indian Women’s Hockey team that won the bronze at Asian Games, lamented that the team targeted the gold but couldn’t manage to fulfill it due to various reasons.

Our team targeted for gold medal but this time we could only manage to get a bronze medal, said Sushila Chanu, who led the Indian team at the Rio Olympics.

“We tried our best to secure gold medal, but unfortunately, we lost to China in the semifinals. But this does not demotivate us because winning and losing is part of the game,” added Bichu Devi, the goalkeeper of India’s Women’s Hockey team.

“We are very much aware of the ongoing situation in our state-Manipur, but we couldn’t do much since we were preparing for the Asian Games. Now with this medal, we are here to help in restoring peace in the state,” said Sushila Chanu.

Khoirom Loya, president, Manipur Hockey Association, said “We are very happy that three from the state (one man and two female) were part of the national hockey team at the Asian Games and today, they returned with medals. We urged them not to get distracted from the ongoing law and order situation in the state and focus on the game”.

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Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met and felicitated the Indian men’s and women’s national hockey team for their spectacular performance at the Asian Games 2022.

The Indian Men’s Hockey team won the gold medal and the Indian Women’s Hockey team secured the bronze medal in Hangzhou.

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