North-East Sports Conclave: Better infrastructure, funds key for success, says Mizoram Sports Minister Royte

Speaking at Sportstar's North-East Sports Conclave, Mizoram Sports Minister Robert Romawia Royte said better infrastructure and better funds will hold key to the spread and success of varied sports, including football, in the region.

Mizoram Sports Minister Robert Romawia Royte at Sportstar's North-East Sports Conclave in Guwahati on Friday.

Mizoram Sports Minister Robert Romawia Royte on Friday said better infrastructure and better funds will hold key to the spread and success of varied sports, including football, in the North-East.

"The gap is still very wide in the case of infrastructure. We have a plan to establish 24 astroturf in two years in the interior and remote areas. After completion, we will have better results [in football]," said Royte at Sportstar's North-East Sports Conclave in Guwahati.

Meanwhile, Abu Metha, associate vice president, Athletics Federation of India and secretary-general, Nagaland Olympic Association, pointed out that while North-Eastern states are still grappling with insurgency, sports has the power of uniting the populace.

"Another thing that comes in the way for sports in North-East is insurgency. There are places in Nagaland, where when Jana Gana (national anthem) is played, they don't know they're supposed to stand. But when (MS) Dhoni hits a six or (Virat) Kohli square cuts a four, every kid jumps from their seat and supports the Tiranga (Tricolour). The sports fraternity must understand that this is a platform to bring young people from the North-East to the mainstream," he said

Larsing Ming Sawyan, president of Meghalaya Football Association and vice president All India Football Federation (AIFF), emphasised the importance of grassroots programmes to involve greater participation from children starting from the age of five years and that it should be centred as much around match-play as it is around skills development. "Everyone needs to be allowed to play in their backyard. This is where AIFF (All India Football Federation) baby leagues come in," Sawyan said.

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"Give a platform to children, it's not always about winning or losing. They need a place to play 30-35 weeks in a year, if they can play competitive matches, that will help improve their skill and physicality, then the talented ones at the age of 13-14 can be taken into the system. It will help improve your motor skills. It doesn't just help with football, it could help with other disciplines. It can help him/her become a good team player across spheres. We need to create a sporting culture."

While football continues to be more than a sport for India's North-East region, Meghalaya is also home to skilled archers, mainly from the Khasi tribe. And they use the bow and arrow in a gambling game called Teer. The game is part of the State’s culture and tradition, and the only wager to get government sanction. The popular pastime takes place not in casinos but on archery grounds.

Asked what Meghalaya is doing to promote other sports, Sawyan said: "There is an integrated indoor stadium, which will have all sports from basketball, badminton to swimming... five-six multiple sports. These will all be state of the art developments. Behind the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, there is a 99 crore multipurpose indoor hall coming up. There is an input of Rs 300 crores towards sports infrastructure. Of course, it has been fuelled by the fact that the National Games will be held in Meghalaya in 2022. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, all projects have been sanctioned."

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