Shillong, Dec 20: The first edition of the Meghalaya Baby League (MBL) had a fantastic final day at the JN Stadium here today, with Langsning Greenergy Lions crowned the overall champions.

The Greenergy Lions ended the league stage on top of the 12-team standings across all age categories of the MBL, which is a joint initiative of Tata Trusts, the Meghalaya Football Association (MFA) and All India Football Federation (AIFF).

However, in the finals of the individual age categories today, Nongthymmai GC Scorpions gave them a surprise in the 4-5 group, while Wahlakhiat Bulls, who are one of the few teams to have had success against Langsning, beat them in the 6-7 group final.

Wahlakhiat also won the 8-9 group against Kickstart FCC Rhinos in the third final that was taken to a tiebreaker, while the Greenergy Lions then won the 10-11 and 12-13 group over the Rhinos 1-0 and Bulls 4-0 respectively.

At the awards ceremony that followed ENE Falcons were named the Best Disciplined Team. There were also Best Player awards in each age category and the winners were Kyle Ryan Kharkongor of Langsning Greenergy Lions (4-5), Habankara Blah of ENE Falcons (6-7), Sashang Gurung of Touchline NE Cubs (8-9), Banpynshngain Wankhar of Langsning (10-11) and Wansiewdor Nengnong of Langsning (12-13).

Earlier in the day, there was a match for parents and another for coaches, while there were also skills challenges for the children and a demonstration of freestyle football by Nicholas Kharumnuid that enthralled the thousands of people who packed into the JN Stadium.

More than 1,300 matches over seven months were played and 1,000 children had registered with the MFA for the MBL, which is the first of its kind in India.

The trophies and awards were given away by the chief guest and Commissioner & Secretary of Sports & Youth Affairs Peter Dkhar, Tata Trusts’ Biswanath Sinha, Centre for Microfinance & Livelihood’s Partho Patwari and MFA President Larsing Ming Sawyan.

Dkhar conveyed the best wishes and congratulations from Chief Minister Conrad Sangma and Sports & Youth Affairs Minister Banteidor Lyngdoh as well as his own.

“This programme has been noticed nationally and I’m sure it will continue in the coming years,” Dkhar said. “The government will continue giving its support and I look forward to other tournaments next year that will give opportunities to our talented youth.”

“This is India’s biggest baby league even though it was based largely in and around Shillong,” Sinha said. “That shows that there is huge potential in the rest of Meghalaya and the entire country. It has been a great success and a big achievement and Tata Trusts has decided to extend the programme next year,” he added while also paying tribute to the parents of the children for making it a success.

Sawyan thanked Tata Trusts for the vote of confidence in the MBL, adding, “The MBL was a pilot project of the AIFF and it is now easier for other states to follow our model. The MFA is focused on developing football at the grassroots level and we hope to work with more organisations like Tata Trusts.”

While also thanking the parents, Chairman of the MFA’s grassroots development committee Wanshan Kharkrang expressed gratitude to Tata Trusts.

“It’s been a very challenging seven months. We’ve had lots of successes and a few failures that will help us improve and we have to thank Tata Trusts for helping us reach this day,” Kharkrang said.

(Photo of the winners contributed by the Meghalaya Football Association)

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