Every morning, Merapani village which is located along the Nagaland-Assam border under Wokha district wakes up to the hustle and bustle of twenty young boys prepping up for their football practice.
The boys, taking advantage of the coronavirus-induced circumstances, turned to sports to keep their days productive and lively. They are being trained by 22-year-old Lironthung Lotha, the defender from Nagaland who is currently with RoundGlass Punjab Football Club.
Lironthung was with SAI Golaghat from 2013-17, Mohun Bagan Academy Kolkata from 2013-17, with Mohammedan Sporting Club Kolkata from 2017-18, with the Churchill Brothers from 2018-19 and joined the RoundGlass Punjab FC in 2020.
He said that he started the training sessions to keep the children away from drug and alcohol abuse, which the region is infamous for.
"It was suddenly planned. During the other years when I returned home for holidays, a few children would come to watch me play and sometimes they assisted me as ball-boys. But I never got the chance to teach or guide them. So, since it is quite a long holiday this time, I decided to mentor children who may be interested to learn football. Initially, 12 of them joined me and now there are 21 of them," he told East Mojo.
He asserted that engaging children in productive and meaningful activities would refrain them from getting into bad influences.
Sharing his experience with the young enthusiastic bunch, he said that the boys training under him are between seven and 20 years and over the past months, a few of them who were into tobacco and drug abuse had given up on their habits to maintain physical fitness necessary for the sport.
"They have become very dedicated towards playing football," he added.
Lironthung said that he teaches the boys basic techniques of the sport which allows them to unwind and connect with each other.
"Although I am not a certified coach, I am teaching them the basics that I have learned through my professional course and experiences. As a child, I did not have anyone to guide me, so, I want to mentor them in the little way that I can. Football is a very smart game -- it's about playing it the right way, whether it is for 24 hours or 45 mins," he said.