Former India star Renedy Singh is hoping that his football-crazy home state of Manipur gets to host more national team matches in the near future. (More Football News)
Manipur, which has been providing footballers to the national team for the longest time, is hosting its first international competition in the form of the ongoing tri-nation tournament involving India, Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan.
The seven Manipuris in the current Indian team are lucky to experience something that one of the state's greatest players, Renedy couldn't while representing the Blue Tigers.
"I was part of the national team for 12 years, but I never got to play even one match over here," said Renedy, the former midfielder who donned the India jersey 66 times between 1998 and 2011.
Renedy was the star performer in many of India's memorable triumphs, including the LG Cup in Vietnam, the AFC Challenge Cup and twice in the Nehru Cup, but never had the opportunity to play for the national team in front of his home crowd in Manipur.
"I feel 25-30 thousand people turning up for India's first match in Manipur is a big thing. I'm really happy for the current Manipuri players, and I hope we get more matches in the future," Renedy said.
"In this state, football has always been number one. It's not cricket here in the northeast," he said.
"As we all know, we're one of the states, which produces the most number of footballers, and we are still working hard to produce more. In every locality and community, you will see kids playing football. If the academies in Manipur keep working, I'm sure we'll continue to provide good players in the future."
Speaking of academies, Renedy himself is a coach at the Classic Football Academy, one of Manipur's best, and one which is increasingly making its mark at the national level.
CFA started as Renedy Football School in 2018 before being renamed three years ago.
"We just became the Hero U-17 Youth Cup champions. Our U-21 squad qualified for the Manipur state league and won the Shaheed Manoranjan Singh Memorial Tournament, beating former champions Sagolband United 7-0," Renedy said proudly.
Rigorous competition at the youth level is a big reason why Manipur stands out in terms of churning out national team players.
"There are many academies in Manipur with former players as coaches who are also working hard. Our rivalry and competition will only help Indian football," he claimed.
As a coach, Renedy spends a lot of time analysing his team's matches. So in attendance at the India-Myanmar game, it was natural for him to make some assessments.
"Our players are fit, fast and well-built, but the only thing I want to see is them being more comfortable with the ball," he said.