Kohima: The most-awaited football event — North East Dr T Ao Trophy 2020 — kicked off at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in Kohima on Monday. Coinciding with the 100th birth centenary of legendary Indian footballer Dr Talimeren Ao, the grand opening ceremony of one of the biggest football events in the region witnessed the unity of all the eight Northeastern states — Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura — under one platform, as each of them will vie for the ultimate championship title.
The inaugural ceremony was graced by RN Ravi, governor of Nagaland and Meghalaya, who in his address recounted how Dr T Ao, the legendary figure, began his journey from a humble remote village with a passion for football and had gone to excel both in sports and academics.
Ravi said that the Northeast region, despite its varied cultures and ethnicity, lived together in peaceful coexistence, until the post-colonial politics of fragmentation began. Saying that this political fragmentation has created a divide, he added that sports in the region has brought people together and has fostered unity. He pointed out that sportsmen from the region recognise each other without any discrimination of which community they come from and has accepted winning with humility and losses with grace.
“The Northeast region has produced a galaxy of sports persons,” he said. Adding that these sports persons have brought laurels to the country, he encouraged the creation of such memorial trophies so that people from the region come together more often.
Meanwhile, pronouncing the welcome note, Zale Neikha, adviser, youth resources and sports, recalled how the region has come a long way since the introduction of the first trophy in 2009, which was also hosted by the state.
Briefing on the biography of the football legend that led the Indian football team to the summer Olympics in 1948 and also achieved in his medical career, Neikha encouraged the sportsperson saying: “One can still juggle important things, and achieve success through sheer hard-work and determination”. Neikha then challenged the younger generation to emulate the great personality and foster peace and unity through sports.
The inaugural ceremony also witnessed cultural performances by various Naga tribes and a male voice presented by the Harmonic Voices. The first match of the tournament was later played between Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.
As reported by EastMojo earlier, the state is hosting the mega tournament after a gap of 10 years, at the state’s only astro turf football pitch under the theme ‘Together we can soar’. The maiden football event will conclude on January 28, the birth anniversary of Dr T Ao, and will be graced by the chief minister Neiphiu Rio.