Delhi Dynamos midfielder Milan Singh repeats the age old belief centered around football and North East India. “Football is in the genes of every one from North-East India. If you are born in North East, the first thing that you get introduced to is football,” says the Manipuri.
ISL team Delhi Dynamos announced the signing of Milan on loan from DSK Shivajians in July. The 24-year old footballer says that he is excited to represent the ‘Roaring Lions’.
“When the opportunity to represent Delhi Dynamos came my way, I accepted it immediately. It was a chance for me to grow as a player,” he said.
The footballer from Manipur, who has earlier represented NorthEast United (2014) in the first season has grown his reputation in last two years. The player has already played I-league for Pailan Arrows (2010-2013) and Shillong Lajong, (2013-2016) before singing on for DSK Shivajians in 2016. Milan has also represented India U-23 side with six appearances.
“Representing the country is something I dreamt of and to get opportunities like that is all I live for. The league format also gives me great feeling of representing a team and standing up to fans’ expectations. I am lucky to gain these experiences so early in my career,” Milan says.
But the road to become a professional footballer was not an easy one for him. Born to a farmer in a small village in Manipur, Milan and his family were victimised by poverty and hunger as he grew up.
While talking to IndianExpress.com, he recounts the incident when he scored six goals in a tournament in Imphal. He reached back home dying to have some food, only to find that his mother did not cook anything as she ran out of rice.
“It is a memory that I can never forget; I still have dreams about that day,” Milan says.
Milan and his four brothers were all introduced to football by his father who was a huge fan of the sport. His father once saw him performing at a sub-junior state level tournament. His performance was applauded by all the spectators and he won the best player trophy.
“My father, after that day, sacrificed a lot, to ensure that I become a professional footballer,” Milan says.
With no money to buy football, Milan often practiced the sport using the local Manipuri fruit, ‘Nobab’. He could not afford to buy shoes, so often walked 25 km, without any footwear, to the training ground in the city.
“Troubles and hardships are something that I have seen from very close quarters but while I played, adversities looked nonexistent. My passion and grit ensured nothing pegs me down,” Milan says.
Insurgency was high in the region while he grew up. Because of rising tensions and clashes, the military often used to seal the borders, and Milan was left stranded in the city after the football practice.
“My childhood friend Soram Poirei, who trained with me, used to provide me shelter for days at a stretch during those tough times. I grew up like family to him,” Milan says.
Fate has brought the two footballers together once again as Soram will be joining Milan at Delhi Dynamos this season.
“We spent hours riding bicycle and competing in the rains other than playing football while growing up. We have shared our dreams and goals along with each other. We are friends for life,” Milan says about Soram.
Battling against poverty, hunger and insurgency, Milan was able to make a career as a professional footballer. Now he cannot imagine a life without the sport.
“Football is life to me,” the 24-year old Manipuri footballer says.