Chinglensana Singh (left) and Kothajit Singh.
Chinglensana Singh (left) and Kothajit Singh. For years now, Manipur has been a cradle of international sportspersons in different arenas. At the forthcoming Rio Olym-pics, six Manipuris will represent the country. In hockey, Sushila Chanu will skipper the women’s side while Chinglensana Singh and Kothajit Singh are part of the men’s team.
With the squad all set to depart to Rio in few days, a confident Kothajit said, “I’ll play for the team as well as I can.”
Fifteen years since winger Thoiba Singh last played for India, Manipur will be represented in the sport by Chinglensana and Kothajit at the Olympics.
“I feel very happy because after a long time Manipur has produced hockey Olympians. Not just at home but my entire village is celebrating. There have been many hockey players from my village,” said the soft-spoken Chinglensana, who is the first Olympian from Bashikhong, Imphal East.
Owing to lack of facilities at home, the duo moved out in chase of their dreams. “It is very inconvenient because facilities for sport are very few in Manipur. The government doesn’t help much. It’s just your family,” said Chinglensana.
Raised by his uncle following his parents’ divorce, the 24-year-old sports a unique name — Chin (hill), Len (place), Sana (gold).
With his uncle unemployed, it was Brojen Singh who helped Chinglensana. “He helped me a lot. I started playing hockey in 2002. He helped me with equipment, kit, and even gave me money. If I’m playing hockey today, it’s only because of him,” he added.
Hockey runs in the family On the other hand, Kothajit, hailing from the town of Lairik on the outskirts of Imphal, was introduced to hockey by his three elder brothers.
“All of us play hockey. Of the three, two are in the Army and the other in ONGC. From Manipur, I went to Lucknow SAI. I got a good place to train.”
Despite severe financial constraints at home, Kothajit garnered extensive support from his family. “From the beginning, my brothers and I were interested in hockey. Financially, the situation in our household was difficult. My parents didn’t have jobs. My father was a manager in a store. We were always aware that our elder brothers needed to find work quickly. Fortunately, they found employment,” explained the 23-year-old.
Words of encouragement from family following his brothers’ employment and training at SAI, Lucknow, saw Kothajit dedicate his life to hockey.