Kohima: Minister of PHED, printing and stationery, Government of Manipur, L Dikho, who graced the opening ceremony of the 21st Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) Martyrs’ Memorial Trophy in Kohima on Saturday night, said that Nagaland has ‘lots to learn’ from its neighbouring state in terms of developing the sports industry.

The month-long tournament is hosted by the Angami Students’ Union (ASU) at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in Kohima, with ground management by Northern Angami Students’ Union (NASU).

Dikho said sports—culture and tradition since time immemorial—has grown to be a “huge industry”. “It is high time to seriously ponder on how to go ahead and bring more changes and development through sports,” he said.

The minister from Manipur said that it is time Nagaland learns from its closest neighbour. Besides highlighting the achievements made by the state in sports, he pointed that at present, Manipur has over 5000 registered football players at national and international levels. He also pointed that the state has a Rajya Sabha member through the sports quota.

“The benefits through sports is huge. I urge our Naga youth and sports lovers to examine ourselves,” he said. Raising a concern, Dikho said even in Manipur, Nagas are not doing as well as their Manipuri counterparts.

“Naga students, it is high time to ponder and plan seriously. Participating in a tournament and forgetting about the future is a wastage of time,” he said.

He advised the youth to do their best, be committed, dedicated, focused and strong in their area of work.

Further, for the growth of sports, he suggested creating a friendly atmosphere to attract both players and audiences from across the country.

Dievi Yano, convenor of the tournament, in a brief note said that after a gap of one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament was being organised at a bigger scale to celebrate the sport.

He informed that 52 teams are vying for the ultimate championship. He encouraged the players to be committed and play in the true spirit of sportsmanship.

Yano hoped that the tournament would continue to be an ambassador in strengthening brotherhood among Nagas.

The annual tournament is organised in memory of NSF members Kekuojalie Sachü and Vikhozo Yhoshü, who were gunned down while participating in a peaceful protest on March 20, 1986.

The protest was called by the NSF against the state government’s decision to introduce Indian Police Service (IPS) cadres in Nagaland and the extension of the Disturbed Area belt from 5 KM to 20 KM along the Myanmar border, then Burma.

“We will continue to honour the sacrifices of the martyrs,” NSF President Kegwayhun Tep said. As the tournament begins, he said that it is a celebration of the younger generation for another year.

Tep said that the tournament has come a long way, becoming one of the most iconic sporting events in the Northeast. He added that the celebration of the “goal for peace” through sports has managed to unite Nagas from far and near.

Following a formal ceremony, the tournament kicked off with the first match played between Phesama YO (5) and New Market FC (3). It is for the first time that the tournament is witnessing night matches. The inaugural day witnessed hundreds of spectators at the stadium.

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