In commemoration of the 100th Birth Anniversary of Dr. T. Ao, a memorial lecture in honour of him was delivered by Former Indian Football Captain, Bhaichung Bhutia- recipient of Padma Shri and Arjuna Award and the only Indian in the Asian Football Confederation’s Hall of Fame- on 28th January, 2019 at Durbar Hall, Raj Bhavan, Kohima.
Former Indian Football Captain, Bhaichung Bhutia while delivering a lecture on Dr. T.Ao in the presence of a host of dignitaries shared about his personal experiences besides other difficulties and challenges faced by the north east footballers, citing Dr. T.Ao as an example when Indian football was mostly dominated by Bengalis during the 1940s and 1950s. ‘Having played in a big club like Mohan Bagan and East Bengal, and then went on to captain Indian football team to London Olympics in 1948 was indeed an honour’, he said.
He also added that being a member and player of Mohan Bagan and East Bengal during the 1940s and 1950s especially for the north easterners was a matter of great pride and privilege as the clubs back then were considered as the most prestigious clubs in the country. He said Dr. T. Ao was a man who excelled not only in football and athletics but also in academics, thereby, leaving a legacy for the coming generations to emulate.
Bhutia speaking on ‘Nagaland Football’, said over the years Nagaland failed to produce prominent players at national level after Dr.T.Ao for which he was disappointed to see the performances of Nagaland as a state yet he expressed hope that it is never too late to start from now onwards. He expressed his desire that he wanted to see the players coming from Nagaland like the neighbouring state of Manipur. He also added that today North East is called the ‘capital of Indian Football’ and many north east players from different states have come out in different age groups at national level but sadly not seen any players from Nagaland.
He urged the players that it’s time to start working on it instead of just complaining about it. Mentioning, that he himself was from a very remote area where he grew up playing football with no proper ground, no television to watch football matches and what football is all about. He attributed the success of his career in football to environment, culture and tradition of Sikkim in those days besides the inspiration he received from watching tournaments conducted during the special occasions. He said he was also inspired by watching older people’s matches and his father who was in a village Panchayat formed his own team in the village and played with other village teams.
He pointed that there will be challenges in terms of infrastructure or platforms but said that everything starts with a small beginning and so if passion, hard work and the talent is put together then Nagas are bound to do well. He appealed to the young naga players to never say impossible but urged them to be positive because everything is possible. He said with the initiative of the state Government and inauguration of Dr. T. Ao’s tournament, he hoped that in the years to come Nagaland will surely make its name not only in football but in other fields as well.
He also stated that one good thing about sports is the experience and lesson we learn from winning as well as loosing. ‘It teaches everyone a way of life, it teaches and promotes the importance of team work’, he said. Therefore, he encouraged the younger generation to take interest in sports not only as a profession but also to develop fit and healthy lifestyle.
He stated that it is important for the football Associations and sports Department to promote sports and build infrastructure. At the same time, we need to start developing the interest of playing football at the community level. He also added that ‘we cannot become a star player unless we have love and patience to play football’, he said. Therefore, he asked the concerned authorities to take concerted effort by channelising the resources at the right direction and take it as a challenge in order to produce lots of sportspersons in the coming years.
Abu Metha, while delivering an introductory remark said Dr. T. Ao’s name was forever paged in the lines of Indian sports, un-erasable leaving a landmark and a milestone for all the generation to come, he was an example who excelled not only in sports but also the ambassador for the young people.
He said Dr. T. Ao’s popularity was not through social media or television but through his achievements, discipline and reputation at the international level. He added that today’s generation will uphold his memory with pride and recognition.
Metha speaking on Bhutia said that he is an iconic figure of Indian sports and a footballer who followed the footsteps of Dr. T. Ao. He said Baichung hailed from a remote area in Sikkim who went on to play football and made Indian proud in an era where football played second fiddle to other sports and emerged as one of India’s most popular sportsperson. He expressed that his presence would inspire the young footballers to dream big and reach out for their dreams in order to bring laurels for the people and the land.
Vote of thanks was proposed by President, Nagaland Football Association, Atuo Mezhur while Neingulie Nakhro was the compere of the program. Harmonic Voices presented a special number.