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Entire Manipur Basketball Teams from the Valley: State Association Vice President T B Singh
Despite the ongoing conflict, Manipur’s basketball teams have managed to continue competing in National Championships.
Manipur has been in the news in recent months over its seemingly endless conflict situation. Against this backdrop, Manipur’s basketball teams have managed to continue competing in National Championships - including in the U13 and Senior 3x3 divisions.
Earlier in September, Ekalavyas.com caught up with Manipur Basketball Association Vice President & Executive Member, Basketball Federation of India, Mr T B Singh, to understand the unique challenges faced to keep basketball alive and growing in the North Eastern State.
What can you tell us about basketball in Manipur?
Actually, previously our team was in very good position in the nation - especially in the sub-junior and the youth [categories]. But now the number of teams is very less because most of the players are interested in education and the other discipline sports. So basketball they are not interested, but we are trying to develop from the grassroots by doing the inter-school tournaments in the U11, U13 categories. Definitely, basketball in Manipur will be developed. But now there are many problems in Manipur…
Was it difficult for you to put together a team, especially in the U13 category?
Yeah actually at that time problem was there regarding this fighting between two communities. Actually, we have two roads going from outside Manipur they are already blocked by the other community so we cannot go so we came by flight up to Calcutta and from Calcutta we went by train. Moreover, the players also are not coming. Actually, we did not do any tournament but we just called those who are interested in U13 and we gave some trial and we selected from there.
It must have been tough to convince the parents to let their kids go - can you tell us about how you were able to take part in the U13 nationals?
Parents are very interested. Even if we say 'you have to come here'...all the parents came, players are coming with the parents, and parents are waiting for their boys.
Parents are interested but the main thing is the number of players... the number of players is very less…that is the problem....and the number of clubs is also very less. Actually, we have only 8-9-10 clubs in Manipur. They are also in the Imphal area i.e. the valley area. Not the hill area.
Hill area there is no basketball...they don't know how to play basketball...they don't have a court. Courts are available only in Imphal. Imphal is only 10% of the land. 90% is the hill area.
So the entire basketball team of Manipur is all from the valley?
Yeah valley…there is no court in the hill areas.
Do you think that there is basketball talent in the hills?
Yaya…talent will be there. I think some court is [also] there...some Don Bosco court…some mission(ary) school is there. They got their own court but actually they have some problems coming to Imphal to participate in the State tournament.
There are five districts in the plain area so all five districts participate in the State Championship. But from the hill area only 1 or 2 times from Churachandpur they participated...but others no - they never participated. That is the problem. Actually, they don't have ground - they don't have a court. But in football - every district they participate.
Aah so there are football grounds....
Yeah, football is everywhere, and most of the players in Manipur they like to play football.
Manipur players are very good in football….
Yeah, India team there are six players in the men's section and seven players in the women's section.
So all the best athletes go to football?
But then all the tall players will come to basketball... but then you don't have that many tall players...
No. We don't have tall....our maximum tall is 6ft but not more than that.
So has Manipur been participating in all sports in the last few months? It's not that Manipur has had to skip any sports events because of the situation….
Ya ya. In the National Games, we participate in all the disciplines...even in Goa also we participate in many disciplines.
Do you feel like at this time, sport has a positive role to play in bringing communities together?
I don't think [so]...Actually, the Meitei tribe also plays football very well... and most Kukis also play very well...Kukis and Nagas…they play very well but the population is mainly playing in the valley area...that is the problem I think.
So once this situation becomes normal, hopefully soon, do you think it is possible to conduct some scouting camp or tryout in the hilly areas? Is that something that you are thinking about, or is it too risky?
I can't say now....risky...depends on the situation and also depends on the discipline. But in football...all the districts are affiliated to the Manipur Football Association..and in every tournament, all districts participate. Only in football, not other [sports disciplines']…