New Delhi, Mar 22 (IANS): The Manipuri duo of Chinglensana Singh and Suresh Wangjam, who played crucial roles for their respective teams -- Hyderabad FC and Bengaluru FC -- in helping them reach the semi-finals and final of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23, will represent the Indian national team that will take part in the Tri-nation international football tournament featuring Myanmar and Kyrgyz Republic.
There will be added motivation for Chinglensana and Suresh as the tournament will be played in Imphal, in Manipur, their home state.
India will play Myanmar in the opening game on Wednesday before facing Kyrgyz Republic on March 28.
"Welcome to my home, lads. I've been receiving a lot of calls and messages from people back home, ever since it was announced that Imphal will host the Hero Tri-Nation," said Chinglensana.
Football is a sport that is close to the hearts and minds of the people of Manipur. However, midfielder Suresh feels that his home state has, within it, an innate sports culture, which makes it all the more special.
"It's not just football. People in Manipur love playing a wide variety of sports like boxing, badminton, hockey, weightlifting, and many others," said the 22-year-old who hails from the land that has produced great athletes like Mary Kom and Mirabai Chanu.
I remember when it was announced that Imphal will host the Hero Tri-Nation, everyone in my family was so excited. They could see me play for India in our home town, that's something special.
They've always come to the stadium to watch me whenever I play in Imphal in the Hero I-League, but this will be a much bigger stage. Of course, a lot of relatives have requested tickets, which is quite normal for a football crazy state like Manipur," added Suresh.
Meanwhile, defender Chinglensana is of the firm belief that it is because top players like Renedy Singh or Gouramangi Singh, who became role models at the national level that the current crop of players from the state have come this far.
"We have all grown up watching Renedy bhai or Mangi (Gouramangi) bhai play for the National Team, and now it's an honour that we are carrying the tradition forward. I myself had idolised Mangi bhai since I was a kid and learned a lot about defending from watching him play," he said.
It's not just the home boys that are excited at the prospect of playing at the Khuman Lampak Stadium. Anirudh Thapa, who had played at the venue last year for his club Chennaiyin FC in the Durand Cup, was also looking forward to the two upcoming games.
"It's a surreal experience, playing at the Khuman Lampak. The stands would be filled to the brim, and they would be cheering the team on. Of course, I've been on the receiving end of that stick, but it would be great to have them on our side this time round," said Thapa.
"I hope they come out in even bigger numbers this time, and we play with the full vocal support of the Imphal faithful," he added.