Shillong, Jul 11: Baby Sunday Marngar, who was part of the Meghalaya football team that won the state’s only medal at last month’s Khelo India Youth Games, has come out of the event with a scholarship as well.

“At the end of the game, I got great news that there were selection coaches present and they called me to say that you’re selected to be in the Khelo India assessment camp, which made me very happy,” Marngar told TSR. “I had performed well but there were also others in the team that deserved to be selected too but I don’t know why they weren’t.”

Following the initial assessment, the midfielder returned home and then got the news that he was to receive a scholarship of Rs 10,000 per month.

“But, I was faced with a difficulty because I got word that I should also come immediately. But if I left by train I would arrive too late, so I had to take a flight and for this I am grateful to those who helped me at that moment, such as Samkhamti, my landlord in Mawlai Mawdatbaki, who has helped me from time to time, and there are many others as well who I cannot name. I have to attend these camps twice a year so that the scholarship continues.”

There was further big news for the 18-year-old, namely that he had been offered a three-year deal with the Sports Authority of India in Kerala.

However, tempting as that may have been, Marngar, who plays for Shillong Lajong FC, turned the offer down.

“I made the decision after I spoke to coach Bobby (Lyngdoh Nongbet). If it were a club, then it would be fine but because it’s SAI, then it means that I have to be with them for three years. Bobby sir explained that I should work hard first in my state and then go elsewhere, so I will work hard so that I can play in the Second Division I-League if the club take part.”

Marngar is from a small village called Shnong Proin, near Riangdo in West Khasi Hills. He had been dreaming of joining Lajong for some time before he got the chance in 2019.

“Shillong Lajong are the best club that every young player in the state wants to play for. There are many talented youngsters who have become well-known footballers who came through Lajong. I have a dream that I too will be like them.”

He was noticed by Lajong after playing in the state-level Subroto Cup 2019.

“Because I lived in the village, I wasn’t aware of many things, so I was sort of stuck. I always had the dream to play for Lajong but I didn’t know how to go about being selected.”

The year before, in 2018, Marngar’s talent had been noticed by Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools, which wanted him to go to Delhi but his family couldn’t afford that and he had to miss out.

“In 2019 I was playing for the Church of God Secondary School and we reached the semifinals against [a school representing] Ri-Bhoi. In that game I performed really well and we went on to win. But we eventually lost to H Elias [Higher Secondary School] in the final – that was the year that they won the national event in Delhi.”

Shillong school H Elias HSS were coached by Bobby Lyngdoh Nongbet as well and it is no surprise that many of Lajong’s current squad are drawn from the team that won the Subroto Cup that year. Marngar later did his Class 11 and 12 from H Elias and is now studying in St Anthony’s College.

Speaking about the Khelo India Youth Games, Marngar said that the team left for Haryana full of hope of doing well for Meghalaya after working hard in practice, this time under the tutelage of coach Jeffrey Warlarpih.

“Khelo India is a wonderful tournament for us young sportspersons. The opponents we faced, there wasn’t even one that was weak because there were just eight teams and all of them were good. In the group stage we came out on top, winning all three games without loss. The first match we performed well, the second, against Karnataka, I feel we played very badly but with good luck we won. We then bounced back in the third game by doing very well.”

The semifinals saw Meghalaya struggling to cope with the extreme heat in the first half.

“But because our defence line was strong, we were able to stop Kerala. In the second half we got several chances but could not score.”

The tiebreaker went against Meghalaya, with just one spot kick converted, by Marngar, and the team had to settle for a bronze.

“We weren’t the champions but we still brought some pride to the state. We worked hard but we had to accept that that is all we would get and we will continue to work harder in the years to come.”

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