It's been a long time coming, but better late than never, the Manipuris must be wondering as the state, one of India's main supply lines for football players, prepares to host an international tournament beginning March 22.
Kicking off the tri-nation tourney, also involving Kyrgyzstan, will be India and Myanmar at the Khuman Lampak Stadium at 1800 IST.
Fresh from guiding Bengaluru FC to the final of the Indian Super League, Sunil Chhetri will be back to spearhead the Indian challenge against a side that has lost nine out of their last 11 games.
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Keeping in the mind the 2023 Asian Cup, India's head coach Igor Stimac will not want his team to take anything for granted and will expect the youngsters named in the squad to grab the opportunity with both hands and put themselves in the reckoning for the bigger battles ahead.
After Myanmar, the home team will next take on Kyrgyzstan on March 28 at the same venue. Manipur has probably never been as ready as it is today. Of course, several Blue Tigers players have regularly played in domestic tournaments in the state that has provided so many top footballers to the national team over the years. But, as far as international tournaments are concerned, it's a first for the football-crazy state. "Welcome to my home, lads," said Chinglensana Konsham.
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