India footballers from Manipur take up afforestation in COVID-19 times

Forced to stay away from action for the last four months due to COVID-19 pandemic, Manipur’s former and current national team footballers took up an afforestation programme at a village, besides taking a trip down memory lane of the matches played there.

The initiative was led by former India midfielder Renedy Singh and joined by the likes of current national team winger Udanta Singh.

India’s 2017 FIFA Under-17 World Cup players Suresh Wangjam, Ninthoinganba Meetei, Boris Thangjam and Jeakson Singh also took part in it.

They assembled in a quiet little village of Tentha situated around 50 kilometres south of state capital Imphal earlier this week. Most of them travelled more than 50 kilometers from their homes.

Renedy made the long trip all the way from Imphal because of an emotional connect to the place. The 41-year-old used to come to the village to participate in local tournaments.

“The village is about a one-and-a-half-hour drive from my house in Imphal. But when I heard that they were having a tree-planting activity here, there was no way I could stay away from it,” Renedy said in an AIFF release.

“The pitch is right around the corner from where we were planting, and it really brought back so many memories,” said the former midfielder who has played more than 70 matches for India.

Blue Tigers winger Udanta pointed out the positive aspects of the activity and urged the fans “to come forward and plant more trees.”

“It was great that all came together for this cause. We must take care of Mother Earth. I hope more people will come forward and sow the seeds of a better future for the next generations not just here in Imphal, but all over India,” he said.

India’s U-17 World Cup quartet of Ninthoinganba, Suresh, Boris and Jeakson also planted their own saplings at the village. Ninthoi has been carrying out the same afforestation activities in nearby hills as well.

“I personally find the activity very engaging. It really helps me clear my mind,” said Ninthoi.

“It was really good to meet all of the seniors in Tentha and plant trees together. They had also played local tournaments here, it was good to exchange some old memories.”

“I have always heard people talk about the positives of planting more trees. Of course, it’s good for the environment, and I’ll start planting more saplings,” said Suresh.