Shillong, July 22 (IANS) Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma officially launched a statewide football grassroots development programme ‘Mission Football’ amid much fanfare at the packed Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Saturday.
Mission Football is a pet project of the chief minister for developing a sustainable infrastructure for the sport in all the 11 districts of the state which has in the past produced national team players like Rocus Lamare, Aiborlang Khongjee and Eugeneson Lyngdoh.
The government, it was stated, intends to spend Rs 560 core in the next five years for development of football in Meghalaya.
The plan is to develop approximately 1,400 playgrounds in all the 11 districts.
An investment of approximately Rs 1.5 crore is expected to be made on one stadium.
A total of eight grounds will be developed. This is in addition to the development of full fledged football stadiums in seven districts with an investment of Rs 5 crores per stadium.
The government also plans to have 10 grassroot centres in each of the 11 districts of the state taking the total number of such centres to 110.
There will also be a Meghalaya State League.
“The state has a lot of potential in respect of football. We foresee a future where Meghalaya will be connected to the rest of the world because of our love and passion for football,” CM Sangma said.
“It is the only game which attracts people from all walks of life. It is based on these observations that the government has come up with a definitive focus to help football in the state and become a powerhouse in not just India but the globe,” he added before drums started beating and he raised his hand to show the document of “Mission Football” to the spectators.
“It is a dream to see Meghalaya being known for the strength and not just passion and love for football,” he added.
All India Football Federation (AIFF) vice-president and owner of I-League club Shillong Lajong FC Larsing Ming Sawyan said the aim is to have six artificial turfs across the state.
“We now have five artificial turfs in the state. When we have six, it will be the most by a state in India,” Sawyan said to loud cheers.
A gala opening ceremony kicked off the launch of Mission Football, with a football friendly between the North East players and the rest of India counterparts following it.
While Lyngdoh, who is arguably India’s top midfielder now, skippered the Northeastern outfit dressed in white, veteran India goalkeeper Sandip Nandy was captain of the Rest of India side.
The match ened 2-0 in favour of North East with India forward Holicharan Narzary and Rupert Nongrum finding the back of the net either side of halftime.