Shillong, Oct 14: The Meghalaya Football Association has a new President in the form of Hamletson Dohling, who was elected to the role today at the Annual General Meeting of the association.

The term of the previous executive body was meant to end in 2021 but was extended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dohling replaces Larsing Ming Sawyan as President. Although he doesn’t have the same level of  experience running a sports association, Dohling is known to be an avid football fan.

Plus, being a politician (he was the former MLA for Mylliem before he lost in this year’s Assembly election and is now Adviser to the Chief Minister) and from the ruling National People’s Party, there was a line of thought that having him onboard would help the MFA secure funding from the state government.

Sunesh Syiem, meanwhile, was elected as General Secretary, winning against Dipshon Ryntathiang. Both are experienced hands – Ryntathiang was Joint Secretary in the outgoing executive body and Syiem was head of the MFA’s youth cell. SS Rapthap is the outgoing General Secretary.

Also elected today were four Vice-Presidents – Hering Shangpliang, Cliff Nongrum, Dr Lumbor Mawsor and Gino Sangma. The new Joint Secretaries are Coming Tlang and Dipshon Lyngdoh Nongbri and the Treasurer is Prosper Warjri. Five Executive Members were also chosen – Phelenstar Rani, Resin Nongsiej, Freddy Kharpran, YG Lyngdoh and Hiamdor Rapsang. Only two members of the new body were members of the old one – Nongrum and Sangma.

The previous executive body took charge in 2017 and had been able to introduce a number of initiatives, such as the Meghalaya State League and Baby League, and celebrate successes, such as winning the Sub-Junior Boys National Football Championship in 2019 and being runners-up in the Santosh Trophy this year. There are also a lot more qualified coaches and referees thanks to training programmes undertaken by the MFA.

So, the new administration has big boots to fill if it wants to keep this upwards trajectory going. And there will be challenges – Meghalaya still doesn’t have a women’s league of its own, a youth league has been talked about ad nauseum but hasn’t been introduced, the Baby League has yet to restart since the Covid-19 pandemic and infrastructure needs to be improved.

Dohling said that the “first target” for the new body as far as infra goes will be to replace the ageing turf at the MFA’s Third Ground facility here with state government help. “The government has Rs 1,000 crore for sports infrastructure and we will try to take advantage of that and get a handsome allocation (for the MFA),” he said.

Now that the main body has been elected, an executive council meeting will be called for and the members of the various MFA committees will be chosen, Dohling added while thanking the previous body for its work in taking the state’s football further and pledging to continue to giving the youth the support they need to make their football dreams a reality.

Syiem also praised the work of the previous body and said that the MFA will consider how to go about bringing in a women’s league and youth league for the state.

“In AIFF (All India Football Federation) tournaments Meghalaya have been doing very well. We have to keep up the momentum and take the state forwards,” he added.

(TSR photo)

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