Published: 11th August 2020
Training kids of Manipur's Kuki tribe, Len Doungel finds 'rich hearts' at early morning practice
For the 26-year-old winger, this was an opportunity to get back to his roots and connect with people from the Kuki tribe, who still live in the traditional manner
Early morning at 5 am, a crowd of villagers gathered around the village ground in Longja in the Chandel district of Manipur - barely a couple of hours from the India-Myanmar border. A group of boys ranging from ages 8-20 have all formed a huddle around a nimble figure donning the India training kit, as the latter explains the finer details of the game to them.
The people gathering around the ground, that is surrounded by the eastern reaches of the Himalayan mountains, faintly recognise the India international, who had last year scored his maiden goal for India in the World Cup Qualifier against Afghanistan in Dushanbe, Tajikistan - Seiminlen Doungel.
For the 26-year-old winger, this was an opportunity to get back to his roots and connect with people from the Kuki tribe, who still live in the traditional manner. "Coming here was quite special for me. My family is also from the Kuki tribe. Much like most of the Kuki people, my father also used to get his earnings from the farm. We have sort of moved on from that way of life since I became a professional. But coming here and experiencing the simplicity with which these people lead their lives was simply amazing," Doungel said to the-aiff.com.
Doungel, who is fondly known as Len in the dressing room, went on to stay in that village for two-and-a-half weeks, in order to impart his footballing knowledge to the local kids. "I felt a real connection to these people. Even when I am in Manipur, I mostly get to speak my language (Thadou Kuki) at home. With these people I could speak that," he said. "The kids there were really simple and did not know much about the world of football."
Len explained that while the kids in the village did not know about the world of football, each one of them was encapsulated by the 'beautiful game.'z