Mizoram’s beautiful moments from the beautiful game

The Mizos made football their loved sport after it helped them defeat British biases. Since then, the game has only given Mizos joy.

 |  5-minute read |   14-06-2018
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The “beautiful game”, football, has several beautiful moments. The most famous are known to billions of football fans. 

But there are several moments which don't take place in stadiums grand enough to capture a large audience. 

bicycle_061418060606.jpgMoments for memories: Fans world over will always remember Ronaldo's bicycle kick

Such moments happen everywhere — but only those associated with them remember.

Here are some inspirational moments from the beautiful game in Mizoram — a land that's been mostly isolated from the rest of the country for decades, but has captured the imagination of the nation in recent years as a breeding ground of high-quality footballers. 

Please note: These moments begin with the saying — "In Mizoram, you will find a football and a pair of football boots in every house."

mizo1_061418061307.jpgDespite its relative isolation, Mizoram has become a breeding ground of high-quality footballers for India

Kicking British biases

Where in the rest of India, football was brought in by colonial British rulers, in Mizoram, it was the other way around. 

The Mizo people travelled all the way to Europe to serve in the British army during the First World War, discovered the beautiful game in France and brought the game home after the war.

But, despite the services of the soldiers of the Lushai Labour Corps in the First World War, there was a general perception among the British that the Mizos were "not suitable" for recruitment to the Army — this perception was openly stated by Commandant WB Shakespeare of the Assam Rifles.

It was football that paved the way for the Mizos to enter the army.

The Mizos put into use what their soldiers learned in France — if football was good enough to assess their physical condition for recruitment into the Allied forces in England, then the game could be used as a benchmark for recruitment into the Assam Rifles.

The opportunity came in 1933, when the commandant of the Assam Rifles division of the British Army organised a football tournament in Aizawl. 

The Assam Rifles were the heavy favourites to win.

But the final match was a historic sporting event for the Mizo people.

Thousands flocked to occupy the hill slopes around Lammual to catch a glimpse of the action. To their immense joy and pride, the team of Mizo youth defeated the fancied Assam Rifles — and dispelled all myths that the Mizos lacked strength, stamina and fitness to be soldiers.

At the presentation ceremony, Commandant Shakespeare withdrew his comments — he announced that the Mizos were as brave as the Gorkhas, who had achieved a legendary reputation world over for their valour.

In the days following the tournament, the first batch of more than fifty Mizos was recruited into the army.

Football thus averted a tragedy of "Shakespearean" dimensions.

shakespeare_061418065343.jpgShakespearean tragedy averted: Assam Rifles welcomed its Mizo soldiers after the Mizos won a football game

Ain't no road long enough...

At that time, when club matches from around the world were not televised in India, the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain and the 1986 World Cup in Mexico were two opportunities for fans in India to glimpse world-class football.

Among these many fans was Lalvulliana, who taught in a government school in the little village of Khuangleng in Mizoram, about ten kilometres from the Indo-Myanmar border. 

Unfortunately, there was not a single television set in his remote village then. 

But this did not deter his spirits — he would travel two hundred and thirty three kilometres by road to Aizawl, to see the matches of his favourite team, Brazil, on TV sets at his acquaintances’ houses.

There too, people would tweak their television antennas to catch the signals from neighbouring Bangladesh’s broadcasts.

Lalvulliana's passion didn't stop there.

It is, of course, common for parents to name their child after a legend they admire — very rarely does the child live up to the reputation of his or her namesake.

mizo-zico_061418063724.jpgLalvulliana named his eldest son Zico after the Brazilian football legend (Red jersey)

Following the 1986 World Cup, Lalvulliana named his eldest son "Zico" after the nickname of the Brazilian football legend Arthur Antunes Coimbra. Also known as "White Pele", Brazilian Zico is regarded as one of the greatest attacking midfielders of all time.

Little did Lalvulliana know then that one day, his son Zico would lead Mizoram to its first national football title.

The little Zico grew up to be a fine footballer — in 2014, he was named captain of the Mizoram Team for the Santosh Trophy, the highest inter-state football tournament in India. Zico ended up as the top scorer of the tournament and won its first major football title at a national level.

zico_061418063737.jpgAlso known as "White Pele", Brazilian Zico is regarded as one of the greatest attacking midfielders of all time.

The other great tackle

Mizoram shares its borders with Myanmar and often, large volumes of drugs are smuggled into Indian territory through these borders. The easy availability of such drugs led to addiction among the Mizo youth in the 1990s. When a civil servant named Ronghinglova learned about his son’s drug addiction issues, the gentleman devised an ingenious plan. 

Ronghinglova identified youngsters in his neighbourhood who had similar addiction issues and formed a football team with them. He provided support and motivated this team to play the game as hard as they could, so that they could qualify for competitions. 

In time, the team went on to play in the prestigious Aizawl League.

aizawl_061418063108.jpgWinning over the greatest odds

His son as well the other players didn’t only defeat their opponents. 

They also defeated their own weakness.

Moments like these make the beautiful game even more beautiful.

Also read: Should Mumbaikars stop paying BMC for their death?


Nilotpal Sinha Nilotpal Sinha

Neel Sinha played football for Aizawl in the 1990s. Now a data scientist based in Dubai, he’s a fitness athlete and has written Goals of Glory on the inspiring triumph of the Aizawl Football Club.

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