Flights Of Fantasy
[ M Panging Pao ]
Football fever has gripped smart city Pasighat. With the hosting of the Hero Senior Women’s National Football Championship, football frenzy is gripping Pasighat and nearby areas, not to mention the rest of Arunachal. The championship was inaugurated by Chief Minister Pema Khandu and attended by union MoS for Sports Kiren Rijiju on 10 September at the newly constructed Pasighat outdoor stadium.
Twenty-nine state teams along with the Railways are participating in the championship. These teams have been divided into eight groups in the preliminary rounds. All groups have four teams each, barring Groups D and H, which have three teams each. Eight group toppers will advance to the quarterfinals, which will be followed by the semifinals, and the final on 24 September.
The enthusiasm was so palpable that the women players were sprinting, kicking, heading and hurling themselves to play a good game of football. Even the rains that created water pools could not dampen the spirits. Rarely do we get to witness Indian women playing and sprinting in pouring rain. Even with the incessant rains in the initial few days creating pools of water and mud, the spirit of the players and the organizers were not dampened. Some matches were shifted to nearby grounds for better playing conditions. This led to the matches being witnessed freely by spectators and without tickets.
Pasighatians turned up in huge numbers to watch the matches. Keen footballers and spectators poured into Pasighat from nearby districts and Assam. Almost all hotels and lodges were booked by the players, the management, the referees and tourists. Pasighat witnessed a sudden increase in the number of vehicles and population. With the traditional festival Solung festival also being celebrated, Pasighat transformed into a hustling-bustling festive town.
The matches revealed the true cosmopolitan nature of Pasighat and Arunachal Pradesh. The matches showed that there was vociferous support for Kerala, Manipur, Mizoram, Assam, Bihar, Bengal, etc. The exception was the common team like Railways, which had players from various states, and hence no dedicated supporters. However, the most vociferous support was for host state Arunachal. Spectators could hear slogans like ‘East or west, Arunachal is the best’, ‘Arunachal, Arunachal…’. Supporters came out with drums, vuvuzelas, pipes and cheerleaders to support their teams.
Arunachal and Pasighat are indeed honoured and lucky to host a national event. Hosting a national event is rarely bestowed on cities and towns. Football frenzy is increasing into a crescendo in Pasighat, and some fine talents are on display. All are hoping that the championship ends well and may the best team win. Whatever may be the case, smart city Pasighat is emerging as a happening town. By the way, another national level event is planned in Pasighat in November. Happy footballing!