Local football tournaments have always been something of a grand festival in Mizoram because football is not just a game and a tournament in this region- it’s a cord of unity that binds the people together, a shared community interest and fans always make sure that it becomes a state affair. It is undoubtedly the most popular sporting event in the small state, with thousands of fans from different localities and villages flocking together in the state capital and those at home gluing their eyes on the TV. Taking all these into account, it comes as no surprise that the state is one of the biggest football nurseries in the state, with many of the Mizo players playing in the country’s big football clubs.

After a long break on account of the pandemic, local football made an epic comeback this year and nothing is bigger than football in Mizoram right now. The 2022 Inter Village Football Tournament has been going on for more than a month with 204 teams from different parts of the state competing in Lammual, Aizawl.  Tomorrow, the final match of the Inter Village Football Tournament will be played by Sialhawk VC team and Champhai Kanan VC team at Lammual in the state capital, Aizawl. It’s the talk of town, the trending topic and nothing else can beat the energy that fans have been emitting since day one of the tournament. The matches have been nothing short of a spectacle and the players have showed outstanding sportsmanship. From media headlines to government offices and vegetable markets, local football is the headline everywhere.

Headed by Northeast United FC player, Danmawia, Sialhawk VC team has attracted the love and attention of the entire state not just with their on- field performance but by the mania created by their passionate fans. As they made their way through the finals, this village in Khawzawl district has definitely carved a name for themselves in Mizo football history. Hundreds of fans have flocked to the capital to support their local team with their slogans and songs going viral since the quarter finals. Champhai Kanan VC is captained by Kimkima, a veteran football player with a rich experience in national football. After defeating Lengpui VC with a 2-1 score, the boys from Champhai are all up and ready to take their first win in the state level tournament. The champion team will win a trophy and a cash prize of Rs. 1,50,000/- and the second- place team will win Rs.1,00,000/- along with the trophy.

The seating capacity at Lammual is definitely not big enough to house the thousands of eager fans waiting for the finals, and like always, a heavy traffic jam is bound to happen tomorrow and nearby bridges and building terraces will be filled with fans perching in every possible spaces. That is what football means to the Mizo people.  

The beauty of the local tournament in Mizoram is that it ultimately becomes a golden opportunity for strangers from different parts of the state to show love to one another. Be it fans from rival teams applauding one another with standing ovation at the end of the match or teams giving financial assistance to their opponents, even at the end of hard played matches, there is always room for love. Electric Veng, a locality in Aizawl, gifted Rs.5000/- to Sialhawk football team. After losing the penalty shootout in the semi- final match, Ramhlun North LC team gave a goodwill gift of Rs. 1000/- to their rival team, Sialhawk VC. Tuithiang LC team also handed Rs. 2000/- to Thenzawl West VC team. In fact, this is a common popular practice throughout the tournament where the winning teams had over a certain amount of cash to the losing team as a sign of goodwill.  Some localities in Aizawl took the tournament as a chance to repay villages who have provided them food and vegetables during the long months of total lockdown during the height of the pandemicAnother interesting part of the tournament is that several teams, especially the ones from the villages, have heart touching stories of how they worked their way off pitch to save money for the tournament. The players of Kelsih VC team took on a road clearing job to earn money for their tournament preparation and Sekhum VC team sold fishes to save up cash to assist themselves financially for the tournament. 

Sports tend to alter attitudes and culture in ways that seem subtle, but that ultimately made us think differently about ourselves and who we are. And once again, the Inter-Village Football Tournament has brought out the best of Mizo values because what fans and the entire state witnessed is that beyond the game and the celebration sports has a way, sometimes, of touching hearts in a way that politics or business could not.