| Mizoram football captain Zico Zoremsanga and (above) Brazilian football great Arthur Antunes Coimbra (Zico)
Aizawl, March 12: Naming a child after a legend is nothing new in this world of hero worship. But whether that child lives up to his/her name is a separate issue.
So, when government schoolteacher F. Lalvulliana christened his firstborn Zico — after the Brazilian football star often called the White Pelé — little did he know that one day his boy would lead the state football team to win the country’s most prestigious football trophy.
“I was a great fan of the Brazilian football team, Zico in particular. Even though Zico was past his prime when my first son was born, he was still my hero,” Lalvulliana, now 50, told The Telegraph today.
From his small village of Khuangleng, near the India-Myanmar border, Lalvulliana watched his 23-year-old son, Zico Zoremsanga, lift the Santosh Trophy on Sunday night.
Zico lived up to his name, netting a brace in the final.
There was not a single television in Khuangleng when Arthur Antunes Coimbra (Zico) was part of the Brazil squad during the 1982 and 1986 Fifa World Cups. But Lalvulliana watched his favourite player on television sets at his friends’ and relatives’ houses in Aizawl.
The schoolteacher always wanted his son to be a footballer but the realisation that his son finished with nine goals in the Santosh Trophy still hasn’t sunk in.
“I was overjoyed to see my son’s name on all the leading national newspapers. And I was proud that some writers described him as the ‘toast of Indian football,’” Lalvulliana said.
The proud father came all the way from his village, about 240km from the state capital of Aizawl, to witness the hero’s welcome accorded to his son and his teammates.
Amidst the fun-filled celebrations at Assam Rifles ground here today, Zico said: “I am overjoyed that I captained a team that has scripted history. I thank God for giving me this opportunity, my coach for making me what I am and the people of Mizoram for their overwhelming support.”
The skipper, whose ultimate goal is to play for a major I-League club and represent India at the international level, added, “This is not the end, I have greater heights to scale.”
Zico played his first football matches at his village schoolground barefoot, like Mama (S. Malsawmtluanga), currently playing for East Bengal and Jeje Lalpekhlua, who plays for Dempo.
He also had a crucial role in Mizoram’s victory in the recent T. Ao Memorial Football Tournament, a Northeast-level competition.
Zico has played many inter-village matches and different age-group tournaments but the Mizoram Premier League (MPL) was his ticket to fame.
He currently plays for Dinthar FC, the reigning champions of MPL.
The high-profile MPL, which was introduced two years ago, is also the driving force behind Mizoram’s success in the Santosh Trophy and the T. Ao Memorial Football Tournament.
“The MPL basically aims to provide a platform for talented footballers in Mizoram. Through the MPL, we have put in place a system and a roadmap to take Mizoram football forward. It has paid off,” said Lalnghinglova Hmar, secretary of the Mizoram Football Association.
The MPL was introduced after artificial turf was installed at three football grounds, two in Aizawl and one at Lunglei in south Mizoram. Most of the matches during the second season of the tournament were played under floodlights.
Th recent success of football in the state is also due to the Mizoram Football Association’s grassroots development programme, which has been declared by the All India Football Federation as the best in the country. “The grassroots development programme that the MFA initiated in collaboration with the AIFF follows the FIFA model. Youngsters between the ages of six and 12 are a part of this programme,” Hmar said.