The football dream of a boy from Tizit
Tingnyek Konyak warming up for a practice session. (Inset) With coach and mentor Mughato. (Morung Photos)
He blazed a trail of brilliance at the Nagaland Premier League often bewildering opponents out in the field. His magic was such that an opposing coach was forced to specifically mark him out at the expense a defender, to keep him under the reins. Spotted by FC Naga Tornadoes coach, Mughato at a Subroto Mukherjee Cup trial back in 2007, the young and effervescent wingman of the team, which finished runners-up at the first season of the NPL is raring to go, his sight set on reaching the top echelon of Indian football.
The player is none other than Tingyek Konyak, barely twenty years of age - the NPL player of the season. Spending his early years in sleepy Tizit, he landed in Dimapur in the pursuit of higher education. That move was to prove consequential in the realization of his footballing dreams. While at Greenwood Higher Secondary School, he stood out from the rest during a trial to select the state under-14 football team for the prestigious Subroto Mukherjee Cup. Five years down the line and as many showings at the national annual high school football event, he is currently and arguably the most sought after player of the NPL.
He has represented the state at the Subroto Cup in the under-14, under-16 and under-17 categories while also was a crucial member of the state team at the Under-16 Nationals at Punjab, 2008. Besides, he is a regular at almost any senior-level local tournaments. He emerged the best striker of the MDFA league, 2010.
In the Under-16 Nationals of 2008, the state team was unfortunate enough to have lost a shot at national glory. The team forfeited the final game after it contested some controversial decisions of the officials. The year Tingyek first played at the Subroto Cup representing the state as a member of the Greenwood Higher Secondary School under-14s, the team lost narrowly to SAI-Lucknow in the final.
“He is very labourious and hardworking… always the first to reach the training ground,” was what Tingyek’s coach and mentor, Mughato commented of his prodigious find. “He also displays inspiring leadership qualities,” the coached remarked of his protégé; one of the reasons behind Tingyek’s selection as the skipper of FC Naga Tornadoes. “The only weak point is his rather small physique (in comparison to players at the national level) otherwise his skill is superb.”
That drawback notwithstanding, he makes it up with his proficiency with the ball. He had started out as a striker but his responsibility shifted to the flanks, to take full advantage of his physical attributes as well as his skills.
Belying his rather temperamental nature in the field, Tingyek’s personality is one of composure and unblemished dedication to the sport off of it. His training regimen is five to six hours of daily practice. Taking time out of his training schedule one fine evening after the NPL culminated, he said that he takes football to his heart, objectively making it clear that he wants to take it up fulltime. “Just want to go outside (the state) once, would love to play with the big clubs,” he said of his ambition; adding, “Offers have come from clubs outside the state… still I’m waiting for the right opportunity. His dream is to one day play for Tempo Sporting Club, Goa.
For the present he is committed to FC Naga Tornadoes. On the suggestion of playing for any of the NPL teams next season, Tingyek said, “I have received some enticing offers from other NPL teams but I am committed to Tornadoes,” with all modesty.
Reminded on the frequent cautioning he received from the referee in the initial stage of the NPL, he said that maintaining mental composure is one aspect he is working on. “My temper (is my weak point) but I’m trying real hard to keep it in check,” he remarked and it appears to be showing results. “(But) I’m learning with every game I play.” He faced a one-match suspension after he accumulated consecutive yellow cards in two games, mostly owing to overflowing emotions. Fortunately for the team and him in particular, he made a terrific comeback. After the suspension, he was quite often seen as the mediator during heated moments.
The first season of the NPL had its share of disturbances on the field as well enthusiastic (and just as angry) spectators intruding the playing area. On this he said, “If we want to play outside, we have to go by the rule book and maintain high level of integrity coupled with the sporting spirit. Everyone must avoid and prevent such behaviour from taking precedence if we are to promote football in Nagaland”. The keepers of the sport in other places deal with events and actions detrimental to the spirit of the game decisively, not only those that occur on the field but also those which emanate from the stands. It is Nagaland and its populace, who will lose out ultimately.
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