INDIAN FOOTBALL

I thought I’ll lose my family: Chinglensana Singh on how Manipur violence affected him

Chinglensana Singh, the 27-year-old Manipur-born footballer, is one of India’s most promising center-backs. During a time of strife in Manipur, Sana put his professional career on hold to stand by his family. The night of May 3 marked as a turning point in his life.

Chinglensana Singh gave a brief series of statements about what happened on that day and how they survived that toughest time. Though the Indian International has been out of the field since May, the nation awaits for his return to the pitch.

Scaring Night of May 3, Sudden Setback:

On May 3, Chinglensana Singh was playing for Hyderabad FC in an AFC Cup playoff match in Kozhikode. His team lost the match to Mohun Bagan SG on penalties. When Sana returned to the dressing room, he found his life turned upside down. Sana recalled,

“When I switched on my phone after the game, there were a lot of missed calls and messages from home in Churchandpur. The moment I got back to my mom on the phone, she was crying. She said there were attacks on the houses and that their lives were under threat. I was in shock, and I didn’t know how to react. It was very scary. I thought I will lose all of them. There were gunshots, attacks, and burning of houses in the neighbourhood close by, where we reside, and the houses were burnt.”

A Nightmare in Churachandpur:

Violent clashes broke out earlier on May 3 in Manipur. The violence took place due to a High Court Order that asked the state’s government to include the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes list.

Chinglensana stayed up the whole night with his family at the other end of the line. The screaming and crying of his family made him think:

“I thought I will lose all of them.”

Sana was just hoping and praying for their safety. Chinglensana Singh said,

“I was on the line throughout the night, and we all didn’t sleep. The next morning, my mom told me that there was the Army to vacate them from there in trucks. People from 300 houses were taken to relief camps in Moirang and were staying there. I went home after two-three days and was able to be with them.”

Salam Ranjan provides shelter:

Though Sana’s family of 12 was able to come away unscathed, their houses were destroyed in the riots. His displaced family has now been staying in the home of fellow footballer Salam Ranjan Singh in Bishnupur district for the last two months.

Chinglensana Singh said:

“We were looking for a place to rent, but it’s very difficult to find houses for rent. Luckily, my friend [Salam Ranjan] said that he had built a new house and that it is vacant. So our family shifted here. I now have to build a new house somewhere.”

Chinglensana Singh prioritized his family over his career:

Sana could not leave his loved ones amidst such turmoil. So he decided to prioritize his family over his career. He withdrew from the national camp scheduled for May 15 ahead of the Hero Intercontinental Cup and the SAFF Championship.

Chinglensana Singh said,

“I couldn’t leave my family behind to go to the camp, it would have been very difficult. I had to be here physically and be the strength for them and not by sitting on the phone. And mentally, I would have been disturbed as well. If you go to play for the country, you have to be 110%. I had to look after them and be there for them. I spoke to coach Igor Stimac.”

Igor Stimac, Sunil Chhetri, and AIFF give full support:

Sana also mentioned that his captain, Sunil Chhetri, understood the situation perfectly and stood by him, emphasizing the importance of family.

Talking about AIFF’s support, the defender said,

“Shaji [Prabhakaran] sir also said the AIFF will support me and said they would do everything possible for me to come out of this stronger. They assured me that I have their support and allowed me to pull out of the camp.”

He also spoke to Coach Stimac about his decision.

Present situation in Churachandpur:

Currently, curfew is still effective in Manipur. Sana said,

“Where I live now, there are curfews, but we can move out with our IDs for the right reasons.”

Talking about Churachandpur, he said,

“I know what has happened is disheartening and heartbreaking on both sides. I am talking about all communities. Though I know it’s not easy, but if peace is restored and if humanity is back… I don’t know… I hope we can believe that we can go back to Churchandpur and live there, and we can co-exist together again peacefully.”

Sana hopes he and his family can ‘restart, rebuild, and regroup’ and have some semblance of normalcy back in their lives.

Chinglensana Singh appeals to the Government:

Following this anarchy, Chinglensana Singh said,

“I hope that the Government will take necessary steps to promote peaceful coexistence among us all. This is the best solution because we mutually depend on each other; we need them as much as they need us. Manipur’s diverse population comprises numerous tribes, and as a regular citizen of this state, I firmly believe that we can live together harmoniously and happily, as we have always done. Sooner rather than later, as many people are currently facing hardships.”

Will rebuild his dream again: Chinglensana Singh:

Talking about the damages caused by the riot, Sana said,

“All my assets and investments over there are destroyed. I built a football turf keeping in mind the talent in Churchandpur. I know a lot of them can’t afford a football school. There are a lot of football schools these days where you have to pay to play, but I wanted to provide a school where they can come play.”

Still, Sana promises he will rebuild his dream again. He said,

“I am determined to rebuild and start a fresh. My dream is to create a platform for aspiring young stars and those who are financially challenged. I will hold onto that dream with unwavering hope.”

He added,

“All I had to do was hire a coach, and that was my idea so they can progress in life. If they become a professional footballer, their life changes, and not just them, the lives of the people around them changes too. That was one way that I thought of giving back to the sport, but the war has meant that My vision has taken a step back.

I will again want to build a turf and want to start again. It is my dream to provide a platform for the youngsters coming up and for the people who can’t afford it. That dream, I will not let go.”

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