Gouramangi is AIFF Player of the Year 2010

Image Credit: ESPN Star

PANAJI: Gouramangi Singh gives you an elaborate list of people to thank: it starts, quite unusually, with the people of Manipur and, to be fair, does not end.

In between there are coaches, club officials, supporters, family and of course, as he later phones from his hotel room in Doha to add, his cub and country teammates who have constantly been by his side.

It’s true the All India Football Federation (AIFF) Player of the Year for 2010 must remember all who have played a role in his development as a player. From the days when former India coach, Stephen Constantine, plucked him from nowhere in the junior squad to the days of uncertainty when he kept shuffling from one club to the other. He got lobbed around, his position and club changed each season, yet the Manipuri never for once lost faith in his own abilities.

“I’ve believed in myself every morning and that is what has kept me going,” the India defender told TOI in a telephonic conversation from Doha minutes after he was named the AIFF ‘Player of the Year’ for 2010.

Until the Nehru Cup triumph in 2007, not many took the Tata Football Academy graduate seriously. His entry into the starting eleven was purely by accident; a result of an injury to Deepak Mondal, but once he overcame the initial hiccups, he almost overshadowed the overpowering Mahesh Gawli at the centre of defense for India.

At the club level, it was only with Churchill Brothers in 2006 – after failed stints at Mohun Bagan, Dempo Sports Club, Mahindra United and Sporting Clube de Goa – that the stopper-back found his feet.

“It’s been such a long journey but I am not even halfway through. There is so much more to do, so much more to achieve,” said Mangi, as he is known to his friends and family.

Apart from goalkeeper Subrata Paul and, to some extent, midfielder Climax Lawrence – both of whom were considered for the award by Coach Bob Houghton – Gouramangi remains the only certainty in the Indian starting eleven. Whenever the team, be it club or country, need something special, some swagger, or a dash of the unexpected, he does not fail to deliver.

“First and foremost, I dedicate this award to the football-loving people of Manipur. There is unbelievable craze for football in Manipur and there are so many players, who unlike me, do not get the opportunity to showcase their talent outside the state,” said the Churchill Brothers defender, who during the summer-break conducted a coaching camp for the less privileged back home.

Interestingly, the honor for Gouramangi comes in a year when his first attempt to move abroad came to nothing. His two-week trial at Australia’s A-League club, Melbourne Heart FC, ended in disappointment, although, true to character, the stopper-back is not willing to give up as yet.

“I’m not going to stop trying,” he said defiantly.

Even before breaking into the Indian team, there has always been much to appreciate about Gouramangi. And now that he has won the honor, his scope for greater glory cannot be ignored.

*The article is written by Marcus Mergulhao.

(Courtesy: TNN)

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