Organised by Kohima Town Club, the Kohima Football League is the only professional football league in district with registered players competing for ultimate championship
Kohima: Football being a much favoured game in Nagaland witnesses numerous local tournaments on a monthly basis, particularly in the state's capital.
However, the Kohima Football League (KFL), which concluded on Wednesday, stands out among others.
Besides being the only professional football league in Kohima, it is organised by Kohima Town Club (KTC), an independent club formed by members comprising certified coaches, referees, physical training instructors and veteran footballers, with the sole aim to promote football and empower skilled youths in the field.
Formally formed on December 1, 2016, it organised its first edition of the league in 2017. The following year, it took a step further and organised an all-Nagaland "referee clinic" where 25 local referees were trained in referee refresher course by an All India Football Federation (AIFF) referee instructor.
Speaking with EastMojo, M Mathew Yhome, KFL convenor, said "With only registered players, KFL witnessed seven competing teams this edition. While we annually provide a platform to skilled footballers, we wanted to give a platform to trained local referees also, who can conduct the league professionally. So, we organized a 'referee clinic' last year where most of whom who attended the training were unemployed youths. To promote the sport as a choice for profession, some of the trained local referees were selected to officiate and assist this year's tournament".
"Keeping in mind the standard of the league, we also had national level referees from Manipur and Meghalaya officiating the matches,” he added.
Of the four women and 21 men who were professionally trained, six men and one woman from the district were chosen to officiate the recently concluded 3rd edition of the KFL held at Nagaland's first astro-turf pitch at IG Stadium in Kohima.
To pave way for local referees who were trained under the club's banner, Yhome said that the KTC envisions to collaborate with the Kohima District Referee Association and to increase the quality of football in the state. Acknowledging the Nagaland football association (NFA) for the unending support to the tournament, he also acknowledged the Kohima district football association (KDFA) for granting permission to hold a district level professional football league.
“Some players gets recognized through this local tournament and goes on to play at higher levels, even to the national level. So, our objective is to further push such skilled players to represent not only the district and state, but to also go internationally,” Yhome said.
While the principle of strengthening and promoting skilled players from the grassroots level is pretty evident, the KLF convenor said that the lack of funds becomes a huge hurdle in the dream of empowering skilled players. He is however hopeful that the KTC, under no circumstance will give up its bid to strengthen football in the state.
On Wednesday, Vanguard FC emerged as the champions winning a cash of Rs 1,20,000 sponsored by Seyie Auto, along with trophy, medals and citation and Forerunners FC as the runner-up with Rs 80,000 sponsored by Pipi Traders, with medals and citation.
On the sideline of the tournament, Zale Neikha, advisor youth and sports resources, when asked about the status of football proficiency in the state, told EastMojo: "Our sportspersons have improved a lot. The Naga girls’ team who are going to participate in Gothia Cup tournament is a good example of the proficiency. The foreign coach also affirmed that our team has improved a lot and is fit to compete with others". He then urged the need for sportspersons "to strive harder in their own discipline with sincerity and dedication".