Aizawl, Feb. 5: The fifth T. Ao Memorial Football Tournament kicked off in Aizawl today with footballers and fans crying for justice for Arunachal Pradesh youth Nido Tania, who was beaten to death in New Delhi on January 30.
Before the two inaugural matches began, all the players observed a one-minute-silence to mourn the tragic death of the youth and to express solidarity. Football fans from Mizoram were seen hanging a large banner that read, “Justice for Nido; Justice for Northeast.”
In the first match, Mizoram trounced Tripura 2-1. Benefiting from home advantage, the Mizoram team dominated the game, but missed a few chances, including a penalty. Meghalaya managed to win the second game 2-1 against Nagaland in a last kick of the game. The Meghalaya team was awarded a free kick in the last few minutes that secured their victory.
Assam will meet Manipur on Friday. All the northeastern states, including Sikkim, are participating in the tournament, except for Arunachal Pradesh. “Following the economic blockade against Arunachal Pradesh, parents of the state team’s players were concerned about the latter’s security. As a result, they had to go home,” one of the local organisers said. The Arunachal team had been camping in Aizawl since the recently concluded Northeast qualifying for the Santosh Trophy. The T. Ao football tournament was kicked off by Mizoram school education minister H. Rohluna, who expressed happiness over the prestigious football tournament being held for the first time in Mizoram.
Saying that the Northeast has huge potential in sports, especially football, Rohluna hoped that sportspersons would soon dominate the national sports arena if potential is properly tapped. He added that the Mizoram government has been taking steps to develop sports infrastructure in Mizoram. This includes laying of world-class artificial grass and installation of floodlights at the venue, Assam Rifles ground. The minister expressed hope that the tournament would strengthen the brotherhood of Northeast India, besides promoting football.