Kohima: Football has always been a much-loved sport in Nagaland, but it is only recently that the sport is witnessing growth at a gradual pace, says top football coach Roko Angami. 

Addressing the footballers during the opening ceremony of 1st Open L Viluo Futsal Tournament at Meriema, former international footballer and president of Nagaland Football Coaches Association (NFCA) Roko Angami said with the gradual growth of the sport over the years, Naga footballers have improved and become well disciplined. 

Recalling how he grew up with his mother, who was widowed when he was at a tender age, he said that he made it to international football through sheer hard work, determination and with the blessings of the Almighty. 

The top football coach advised the young players to respect their sporting talents, have the drive to learn and also believe in their own capabilities.

He said, “Times have now changed and younger players have the privilege of being guided by coaches, senior players, and wellwishers to support and promote the sport.” 

He also encouraged the players to maintain consistency, make sacrifices in the pursuit of achieving their goals and be enthusiastic as well as passionate about the sport. He added that football has helped him build a vast network and has given him an identity. 

More than just a game that requires kicking the ball and running around, he said that the game involves the whole body and so players should have self-control and make the best use of themselves by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. 

As the L Viluo FIFA turf is the first futsal astro turf pitch in the Northern Angami-II region, he praised the contribution of the family in promoting the sport. He encouraged the players to build team spirit and a good relationship with fellow players through the sport . 

As he briefed about the history of futsal, he presented a copy of the futsal bylaw to the family of L Viluo. With futsal being recognized by the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) and All India Football Federation (AIFF), he hoped to very soon witness Naga players at the national and international level. 

Further, he urged the players to win the hearts of people through the sport and protect sports facilities, both private and public, as their own.

Proprietor Viluo Angami said the tournament will witness some of the best footballers in the state as a total of 31 teams are vying for the championship trophy. The 3-day 7-a-side tournament will conclude on June 30.

The winner of the tournament will receive a cash prize of Rs 70,000, while the runners-up team will receive Rs 30,000 and the semi-finalist teams will receive Rs 10,000 each. An amount of Rs 5,000 will also be awarded to the best goalkeeper and the highest scorer. 

The inaugural programme was chaired by Thejasetuo Dzüvichü, while the invocation was pronounced by CRMC, youth pastor, Zhaviu Pienyü and Viluo Angami delivered the welcome address.

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