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A year of double delight for State

By Nabrun Goswami

2016 will arguably go     down as a monumental year in the history of sports in Meghalaya. While it all started with preparations for the first ever South Asian Games in this part of the country, the icing on the cake was the announcement that the State has successfully bid for the 2022 National Games.
While hosting of the SAG has undoubtedly given a boost to Meghalaya’s reputation of being able to organise multi-discipline events at the highest level, the yet to be hosted National Games will ensure that sports infrastructure in Meghalaya is on a par with other states in the country. It also promises to usher in ‘bright days’ for the vast pool of sporting talent in the State who will have access to state-of-the-art facilities in future thanks to the 2022 National Games in Meghalaya.
In other events, football continued to be the common man’s favourite with Shillong Lajong FC managing 6th place finish in the 2015-16 season of the I-League. Royal Wahingdoh FC’s youngsters also brought glory by reaching the final of U-16 Youth League and the U-20 Football Tournament at the national level.
2016 will also occupy a special place in the heart of budding cricketers of the State, who, for the first time got an opportunity to train under the best from Indian cricketing circles thanks to the BCCI’s youth-centric programmes for the Associate and Affiliate states, including Meghalaya. Martial art was another field where the State continued to excel.
SAG glory

Bmbem Devi given a grand farewell by team members and offcials after India’s win over Nepal in the women’s football final of SAG at JN Stadium, Shillong. (ST)
Bmbem Devi given a grand farewell by team members and offcials after India’s win over
Nepal in the women’s football final of SAG at JN Stadium, Shillong. (ST)

The 12th South Asian Games jointly hosted by Meghalaya and Assam turned out to be the most successful one for India in terms of number of medals won. India won a whopping 188 gold, 99 silver and 30 bronze medals. Sri Lanka were a distant second with only 25 gold, 63 silver and 98 bronze medals. It was a massive jump in the medal count for the Indians who had won 90 gold medals out of the total 175 won in the 2010 edition of the games. Shillong, which hosted the disciplines of archery, badminton, boxing, judo, table tennis, taekwondo, wushu and women’s football, not only witnessed the glory but lived every moment of this historic occasion that came its way.
The disciplines of archery, badminton and boxing were an added attraction as India had named full strength squads for the events which meant that a host of stars of Indian sports enthralled Shillongites from February 5-16.
A grand opening ceremony marked the kick off of the Games in the city.
Famed shuttlers like Jwala Gutta to PV Sindhu and renowned boxers, including North East’s MC Mary Kom, ensured that tickets for the sporting events were sold out beforehand.
However, as is the case with almost every sporting extravaganza in India, the SAG was not without its share of controversies and one such incident that almost jeopardised the hosting of the Games in Shillong was the report of badminton discipline being shifted out of Meghalaya “at the behest of Assam” due to a shortcoming in the warm-up area for the shuttlers at NEHU indoor stadium, the venue for the event.
Things took a turn for the worse when Chief Minister Mukul Sangma put his foot down and announced that the State would decline to co-host the SAG if badminton event was held in Assam. However, after almost a week of drama, the Games Committee made it clear that Meghalaya would get to host badminton as was decided in the original fixture for the games.
What followed was over 10 days of sporting glory. It was here in Shillong that Ruthvika Shivani defeated the famed PV Sindhu for gold in women’s single (badminton), it was here that Mary Kom knocked out her ‘big talking’ Sri Lankan opponent Anusha Dilrukshi in the women’s 51 kg category and the JN Stadium in Polo was witness to the magnificent performance by Indian eves who defended their SAG football title beating Nepal 4-0. The party was made more memorable by the fact that it was renowned woman footballer Bembem Devi’s final match. The 35-year-old had led the nation’s women’s soccer team in several tournaments and won the 11th SAG besides the 1st SAFF Women’s Football championship.
While India made a clean sweep of golds in badminton, boxing and archery, it was at best miserly in sharing medals in the other events hosted in Shillong.
What was also heartening is the fact that the SAG brought the best out of the local sports associations who organised the games and made available all the real time logistics. The successful conduct of the Games certainly elevated Meghalaya’s reputation as a sporting destination.

Natl Games bid
Later in July when Meghalaya bid to host the 2022 National Games, its cause was given a definite fillip by the way it handled the SAG. Finally on December 27, Meghalaya was awarded the National Games 2022 with the annual general body meeting of the Indian Olympic Association held in Chennai recently accepting the bid of the Hill State.
The hosting of the 2022 will coincide with the 50th year of Meghalaya’s statehood and the timing could not have been more apt for a State that promises to be one of the sporting powerhouses of the nation if nurtured well in the long run.
I-League: Lajong banishes relegation fears
Coming to football, though it was not the best of season’s for Shillong Lajong FC in the I-League 2015-16, the Reds eventually signed off in style to dismiss relegation threat and finish a decent 6th in the standings. Pushed to the bottom of the standings at one stage, SLFC soared under pressure to tame the famed East Bengal in its last home match and ensure its survival for the next season. Despite an indifferent campaign, Lajong deserved all the credit for sticking to its idea of promoting youth in the country’s top league. That the average age of the SLFC squad was well below 25 spoke volumes about its youth-centric policy.
SPL hat-trick
Shillong Lajong also continued their dominance in the Shillong Premier League winning the trophy for the third time in a row. Lajong beat Rangdajied United 3-2 in a thrilling grand finale at the JN Stadium, Polo. The Reds also emerged victorious in the Meghalaya Invitational Football Tournament where they beat Oil India, Assam 5-0 in a lopsided final contest.
RWFC youth development continues to make a mark
The youth teams of former I-League club from the city, Royal Wahingdoh FC, also had a memorable year with the side’s U-15 and U-20 teams making it to the finals of AIFF’s Youth League and U-20 Football Tournament.
The Royals colts were unstoppable at the zonal level and marched to the final of the national round with absolute ease. However, the final hurdle proved to be a touch elusive. A dominant force throughout the tournament, a spirited RWFC went down 3-4 in penalties to Minerva Academy in the final of the U-15 Youth League in Goa in April. They went down 1-2 to Mohun Bagan in the U-20 All India Football Tournament in March. Back home, RWFC won its maiden U-18 Shillong Premier League beating Nangkiew Irat 3-0. The club was also the first from the North East to send its women’s team to the maiden Indian Women’s League prelims.
Meanwhile, Langsning claimed the Shillong League first division title beating Sumer in the final.
1st Woman referee
Ri Oh Lang Dhar cleared the CAT 2 National Referees Examination of the All India Football Federation this year the first ever Women National Referee from the State.
Focus on cricket
In a first, youths from the State were given cricket lessons by the best in the business in India thanks to the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) initiative to nurture young talents from the New Area Development Project (NADP) states, which include Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. From the likes of Venkatesh Prasad to Dilip Vengsarkar, all descended on Shillong to oversee the training of budding cricketers of the city.
The BCCI decided to resume coaching camp for selected players from all NADP states in the U-16 and U-19 categories in Shillong and Dimapur, respectively. The trials in Shillong were headed by former India fast bowler Prasad who is also the Chairman of Junior Selection Committee, BCCI. Vengsarkar, the Chairman of the National Cricket Academy, was also in the city to oversee the progress of the camp.
Later, Anurag Thakur, the first BCCI president to visit Meghalaya, promised an indoor practice facility in the city besides announcing the intentions of the cricket board to develop the game in the State. Also in the pipeline is an NCA-like cricket academy in the North East to be set up either in Shillong or Guwahati subject to availability of land.
The state lads also performed well in the BCCI A&A U-19 tourney making into the final of the event where they were defeated by Bihar.
Martial Arts glory
Two kick-boxers from the State made a mark at the WAKO India Senior National Kickboxing held at Vizag, Andhra Pradesh in August. While Khrawbok Marwein bagged gold in Ring Sports (low kick) in the below 51 kg category, Albanrilang Pearson Mylliem had to be content with silver in Ring Sports (K-1 Rules) in the below 51 kg category.
Later in December Marwein also won gold at the World Championship of World Martial Arts Council Games in New Delhi. Six athletes from Meghalaya represented India in the championship.
Other than Marwein, Jarmin Sangma (Taekwondo) bagged gold, Scolis Manih (Kung-fu) won silver and Thomas Nongthaluh (Kung-fu) won bronze in the event.
PM lays base for Ampati stadium
In an event of significant importance, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation for the first international multi sports stadium in Ampati. The Prime Minister in the presence of Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma and MoS I/c Ministry of DoNER Jitendra Singh laid the foundation stone at a ceremony in Shillong while at the same time people gathered at a function organised to mark the occasion at Ampati mini stadium by the district administration in collaboration with the department of Sports and Youth Affairs.
The stadium which will be located at Bolsalgre Banduraja with an estimated area of 16 acres was sanctioned under the Non Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR).
Young shooters, athletes shine
The state shooters, meanwhile, made a mark in the 4th North East Zonal Shooting Championship winning as many as 12 medals in the event held at Dimapur in August.
Also, in a first, athletes from the State won 4 gold and 3 silver medals in the Junior National Athletic Meet held in Guwahati in September.
Another big assignment for Matsiewdor
Meanwhile, president of Archery Association of Meghalaya Matsiewdor War Nongbri was given the role of chairperson of the judges commission in the archery event of the Paralympics Games held in Brazil in September.
SSA celebrates centenary
The Shillong Sports Association also celebrated its centenary this year with a host of sporting events organised under its banner.
The celebrations kicked off in March with the inauguration of the new galleries at Ground 1, Polo. It concluded in December paying rich tributes to all those who contributed to the cause of the association over the years.
Meanwhile, Boxer Shiva Thapa inaugurated a boxing tourney in the city as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Rilbong Sports and Cultural Club.  A marathon was also held in the city as part of the celebrations.

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