Arunachal Pradesh CM Pema Khandu kicking off the 25th edition of Senior Women’s National Football Championship 2019 in Pasighat on Tuesday Credit: EastMojo image

Itanagar: Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu on Tuesday kicked off the 25th edition of the Senior Women’s National Football Championship 2019-20, one of the coveted women’s football tournaments in the country at Pasighat, the headquarters of East Siang district.

Expressing gratitude to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for selecting Arunachal Pradesh to conduct the prestigious national level tournament, Khandu welcomed all players from various states and match officials to the frontier state.

He said that the tournament is a god-sent event for the soccer crazy people of the state and would go a long way in inspiring youths to take up football seriously.

“Football is the most loved and played sport of our people and the people of Pasighat are particularly crazy about the game. For them this is an unprecedented opportunity to witness senior women players from all over the country sweating it out on the ground,” he said.

Khandu said the state government is giving priority to games and sports and therefore have constructed several stadiums in various places, Pasighat being one. He informed that the government is planning to construct similar stadiums in every district of the state so that young talents of every district can groom themselves.

“A programme is on anvil to scout talents of 6 to 10 age group by conducting yearly tournaments in all the districts,” he revealed.

Pointing out that sports and games have received a boost since the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014; he said that the central government programme of Khelo India has been initiated with an eye on the coming Olympics.

He expressed optimism that under Narendra Modi and Union MoS for youth affairs and sports (independent charge) Kiren Rijiju’s leadership, India’s medal tally in the ensuing Olympics would increase manifold.

Appreciating the sporting spirit of the people of Pasighat, Khandu especially thanked a women’s self-help group – Roje Rasseng – which has been sponsoring teams and encouraging the game of football since several years through various tournaments.

To express his appreciation, Khandu felicitated members of the self-help group during the inaugural function.

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The chief minister also felicitated Oinam Bembem Devi, the first and only women from the Northeast to lead the women’s Indian national team as captain. He called her an inspiration for generations to come. He also congratulated the Arunachal Pradesh Football Association (APFA) for taking the onerous responsibility of conducting a tournament of such magnitude.

Rijiju, on his part, termed Northeast as a powerhouse of sporting talents and said that this tournament would encourage more youths to take up sports professionally.

He informed that his ministry would soon start a campaign to encourage women’s football in the country. “We are going to soon start an Under-17 Women’s Football Champion League. We are sure this would encourage women from a young age to take up football besides creating a pool of national and international level players,” he informed.

Rijiju too lauded the efforts put in by APFA in successfully conducting a tournament of national level, which is witnessing participation of 30 state teams. He assured his full cooperation and support to the Association.

Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly Speaker P D Sona in his speech called upon young players to make the best of the opportunity of having a Union minister heading the sports ministry in KirenRijiju, who, he said, is committed to support all who excel in sports and games.

“Thanks to the visionary leadership of our chief minister Pema Khandu every sector is developing fast including sports. With Rijiju at the Center and Khandu leading the state, we expect to produce world class athletes and soccer players in the years to come,” he added.

The inaugural ceremony was also attended by state’s sports & youth affairs minister Mama Natung, health minister Alo Libang, legislators Phurpa Tsering, Zignu Namchoom, Kaling Moyong, Lombo Tayeng and Ninong Ering, chief secretary Naresh Kumar and others.

The inaugural match was played between Railways and Mizoram, which was dominated and won by Railways 4-0.

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