Turning Points: How two men and a village are reviving football dreams in Tuensang

) Changsang Ongbou, an AFC ‘C’ and AIFF ‘D’ License coach conduct a training session. (Morung Photo)

) Changsang Ongbou, an AFC ‘C’ and AIFF ‘D’ License coach conduct a training session. (Morung Photo)

Moses Hongang Chang
Tuensang | June 17 

In the heart of Tuensang village, a small group of passionate individuals envisioned a future for their youth, aiming to shield them from societal challenges while equipping them with essential life skills.

Menya Wongto, chairman of Tuensang Village Sports Foundation with trainees at  Tuensang Village.  (Morung Photo)

Their vision materialised as the Tuensang Village Sports Foundation (TVSF), a transformative initiative harnessing the power of sports to instil responsibility, discipline, and community spirit.

On 23 May 2024, TVSF launched its fourth phase of football coaching, led by Changsang Ongbou, an Asian Football Confederation ‘C’ and AIFF  (All India Football Federation) ‘D’ License coach. 

A football training in progress at  Tuensang Village. (Morung Photo) 

This marked another stride in their journey, driven by a shared commitment to uplift the village’s youth through football.

Reminiscing about the genesis of their mission, Menya Wongto, chairman of TVSF stated: “While several teams from our village competed in the Loyem Memorial Trophy, I envisioned an institution dedicated to nurturing local talent. Our aim was to form a team comprised entirely of local players, fostering pride and unity.”

The Loyem Memorial Trophy (LMT), a cornerstone in Nagaland’s football calendar since 1992, has long provided a platform for local talent under the banner of the Chang Wedoshi Setshang and Chang Students’ Conference.

In February 2022, TVSF funded seven players' trials for Rajasthan United FC, with Ayen Mongba (U-17) and Aolen (U-14) earning spots. (Morung Photo) 

Ongbou’s journey of redemption
Ongbou’s journey is one of redemption. Once a promising footballer from Tuensang, known for his prowess as an attacking midfielder and striker, Ongbou's career faltered due to drug addiction. 

However, in 2021, he rediscovered his ‘first love’—football. His resurgence in football was marked by his participation in the LMT, a tournament where he once excelled. “Football saved me,” he often reflects, underscoring how the sport helped him reclaim his life.

At his peak, Ongbou represented Nagaland in prestigious competitions such as the Subroto Cup and the T Ao Trophy. Now 36, Ongbou serves as an inspiration, leveraging his experiences to mentor the next generation. He is often seen at Loyem Memorial Astro Turf Ground providing free football coaching to the youths of Tuensang town.

Trainees try their Sepak takraw skills. (Morung Photo) 

TVSF’s coaching camps, integral to Ongbou’s  vision, aim to nurture budding football talent from grassroots levels. 

Foundation chairman Wongto underscored the significance of engaging players early on. “Starting young is crucial for laying a robust foundation for their future,” he emphasised.

Their coaching efforts began in 2019 under the stewardship of local player A Yemlong until 2021. During this period, the team achieved notable milestones, including a runner-up finish in the LMT 2022, where Ayen Mongba received the Golden Ball for his outstanding performance, and a quarter-final berth in the Tuensang District Football Association Cup the same year.

Overcoming challenges and looking forward
In February 2022, TVSF funded seven players' trials for Rajasthan United FC, with Ayen Mongba (U-17) and Aolen (U-14) earning spots. Financial constraints prevented their recruitment, yet TVSF's resolve remained unwavering. Despite setbacks, Mongba's selection for the Bhaichung Bhutia Foundation in 2022 was a testament to their perseverance, halted only by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking ahead, Wongto envisioned a professional football club in Tuensang bolstered by a robust, homegrown squad. In pursuit of this goal, TVSF organised the U-23 Foundation Cup in 2023, drawing participation from eight teams. The second Foundation Cup cum Sports Meet in December 2023 further underscored TVSF’s dedication to nurturing local talent.

This story of two individuals, whose passion for football transcends personal aspirations, is resonating deeply within the community. The unwavering dedication of Wongto and Ongbou, through the TVSF, has emerged as a beacon of hope, reigniting football fervour in Tuensang and illuminating a path to a brighter future for the village’s youth.