Exclusive: It is because of our fans that we managed to scale these highs- TRAU Secy. Meitei
Written by: Manas Pratim Kashyap
The Imphal-based club are living Indian football's latest dream as they push for promotio to the I-League.
Sometimes all that is required is a glimmer of hope to make us believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Until the turn of the last decade, football in the northeast remained confined to the region itself. This hotbed of Indian football was bubbling with talent, waiting for an opportunity to burst onto the national stage. Since 2009, many clubs from the region have followed in the footsteps of Shillong Lajong to play in the top tier.
As the I-League 2nd Division 2018 reaches its final sprint, another club - Tiddim Road Athletic Union (better known as TRAU), is making a strong statement, aiming for top tier football next season. Managed on a shoestring budget, the club has defied all odds and definitely haven't come this far to make up the numbers.
Khel Now managed to catch up with TRAU's Club Secretary T. Phulen Meitei amidst his busy schedule to know more about the club, its history, how it rose through the challenges and their current journey in the second tier.
Although, they are a new name in the national arena, TRAU have been around for quite some time now. We asked the club secretary to enlighten us about the club.
"The Tiddim Road Athletic Union (TRAU) is not a new team in the history of Manipur football. It was established on 2nd October, 1954. Back then, TRAU were not confined to football only. Some of the other disciplines were Hockey, Athletics, Badminton, Handball and Football (both Men and Women)."
"With the passage of time, our interest has shifted to football and cricket only. Our cricket team is one of the elite teams in Manipur. The logic behind the formation of TRAU is to promote sports in the region," he added.
TRAU hold the distinction of producing top class footballing talents since the 70's and Meitei feels honoured to recall and share with us those past memories.
NEROCA produced a fairy-tale triumph and earned their promotion in style last time around
"To be very honest, if you look into the history of Manipur’s football, it is TRAU which has won the maximum number of tournaments. No other team from Manipur had won the C.C. Meet (All India Invitation Tournament) as we did. We have won it six times and finished as runners-up on nine occasions."
"It was every footballer’s dream to get a place in TRAU’s playing XI in the 70’s and 80’s. We have to our credit, the most successful team in producing players of international repute."
It is worth mentioning that prominent PLAYERS from Manipur, viz. L. Nabakumar Singh, R.K. Ladusana Singh, Koijam Soro Singh, L. Mani Singh, and so on have plied their trade for TRAU. Again, the late 80’s saw them produce the likes of Joy Kabui, Manglienthang, Kh. Surmani and Kh. Sanaton among others.
With the backing of a very passionate group of supporters and the entire of Manipur in general, TRAU is grateful to the entire local community and Meitei tells us about the same.
"With regard to the significance of our local community to the club, we can greatly say that it is with their support that TRAU has been successful in scaling new heights. Although, our achievements in the last few years were almost disheartening, with our great show in the 2nd Division I-League, the support and contribution of the local community is increasing. We can proudly say that the present composition of the team is of all Manipuris except for the two foreign players."
This is the club’s debut season in the 2nd Division and the boys have done particularly well till now. We asked the club secretary to talk us through the journey so far.
Despite losing their first match in the final stage, they can still move up and get promotion.
"Since we were working on the club licensing part for the first time, we had little hiccups in the initial stage. Till the last stage we were not very sure whether the CLC (Club Licensing Criteria) will be approved by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and All India Football Federation (AIFF)."
"The first match was very crucial and we adopted a very defensive game as we were playing with 10 men (goalkeeper red carded in the 3rd minute). Our match against Langsning FC in Shillong was the luckiest game for us. Inspite of their dominance we were successful in getting three full points. Our boys started gaining their confidence when we defeated Mohammedan SC by a huge margin at our home ground. On the whole, other than one match, our journey to the main round has been very smooth." he added.
For a club rising above the clouds of financial uncertainities, TRAU's club secretary extends his sincere thanks to a host of personalities and organizations who helped them throughout the journey in recent times. He also pointed out the requirement for more fund in order to build a strong side going forward.
They scored a total of 26 goals, the most in the preliminary stage of the league
He further went on to say that, "From the State Government we didn’t ask for any help but the ground [Khuman Lampak] was allotted to us as our Home Venue. From AIFF we were told that we shall be provided a lump sum grant of Rs.1.2 Lakhs for away matches and Rs. 50,000 for home matches. We have plenty of talents in our region. Harnessing these talents requires fund. And in order to compete with other big clubs we need to add some professional players also. We started our venture with amateurs but in the later stages of the tournaments we added some professionals [professional players] on loan from NorthEast United FC & ATK. We need lot of exposure to get more sponsors."
On being asked whether TRAU are planning to start the football culture from the grassroot level itself, Meitei opened up about the plans of the club and their ambition to start one academy soon.
"We are planning to start a world class Residential Football Academy very soon. Land acquisition has already been done at Tharoijam (near Heaven’s Garden). We are planning to seek the help of our Government in converting our old ground i.e the Tiddim Ground to a Turf ground [for nine a side].
"If, once, we are successful in getting the confidence of the Government, then fund will come automatically. At the moment, the rate for hiring the ground (AMFA owned Turf) is Rs.5000. So if we have our own turf ground, we can practice in our scheduled time and on other time we can leased/rent out."
To play in the nation's 2nd division league involves a lot of travelling across the country, getting accustomed to new culture and other necessities. The club secretary is happy that the boys are learning something new everyday, besides improving their football.
"Many funny things happened. As most of our players are travelling in flight for the first time, we need to take classes to them, set aside the football classes, the table manner (buffet) and many other things. The innocence and simplicity of all our players are worth mentioning here, but at the end of the day, they are doing good in football and this is what we expect from them."
Now that TRAU are competing in the final round of the 2nd Division I-League, Meitei sounded a bit unhappy about the venue for the final round but is confident of a good show from his team.
"Very tough, not very happy with the choice of venue for the final round as Ozone FC also qualifies for the final round."
"We will keep trying and if luck favours us, on our day, we can upset many big teams."
Meitei was all praise for the the outstanding support they have been receiving from the fans and is very grateful to all those who turn up in their colours on matchdays.
"TRAU is a fan based team, after doing good in the preliminary stage, our fans started believing in the capabilities of local talents, now our fans has all the praise for our players. The interest of the fan for our player is reflected at the Stadium when many of the fans wore the Jersey of their favorite players."
"Now TRAU is for Manipur. TRAU is not confined to any particular region, caste, creed, culture or religion, support TRAU & long live TRAU", he concluded.
Published: Sat May 26, 2018 06:54 PM IST