The Northeastern state of Nagaland will  have its own Premier League from next month onwards. The NPL will kick-off on March 2 with an exhibition match between a Nagaland XI and I-League side Shillong Lajong FC at the Kohima football ground at 2.00 p.m. The chief guest on the occasion will be the Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio with other state ministers to grace the occasion.

The NPL has been able to get Shillong Lajong FC as a partner with its manager-cum-owner Larsing Ming as a league patron, while former India captain Baichung Bhutia is also a patron of the league.

Baichung Bhutia said in his message of support, “I believe the Nagaland Premier League will provide the right opportunity and platform for footballers from the state to compete and showcase their talent. We have to have young players involved and the youth to bring in the right spirit to the game, not just on the field but off it as well. There’s no dearth of talent in Nagaland, we just have to see the right players with the talent and the discipline to come out of Nagaland and play not just here but for the country. I whole heartedly support this movement and the NPL Management.”

The NPL is being organised by the Nagaland Football Association together with the local Dimapur-based sports management agency Four Four Two Management to develop the game in the state. With an enormous amount of untapped talent, the NPL will groom players from a young age and give them a platform to grow and later move on to bigger arenas.

In total 10 teams from across the state would be seen in action – Barak Flamingos FC (Peren), Dimapur United FC, Doyang FC (Wokha), Dynamic FC (Dimapur), FC Naga Tornadoes (Zunheboto), Kohima Komets, Life Sports FC (Kohima), New Market FC (Kohima), Sangpang FC (Mokokchung), Zopipang FC (Mokokchung). A few clubs have designed new logos and got creative with their team names.

The leagues aim is not only to improve football in Nagaland, but also professionalize the club football scene in the state to such a level that it can generate jobs and maybe enable the state’s top club(s) to play in the second tier of the I-League.

Published with permission from Arunava Chaudhuri.