Kshetrimayum Malemnganba Meitei is a midfielder currently playing for Manipur-based club TRAU FC, on loan from Indian Super League side NorthEast United. Born in Yairipok, a small district in Manipur, he emerged as a prospect while playing for North Eastern Re-organising Cultural Association at the age of 15.
He then went on to play for North Imphal Sporting Association (NISA), Hindustan Aeronautics Limited Sporting Club (HAL SC), Bengaluru FC, Salgaocar and Mumbai FC. The 26-year-old often operates as an attacking midfielder and is known for his pace, skill and ability to get past opponents.
We caught up with him for an exclusive chat and here's what he had to say about his personal career, the ISL and the football in India.
Q: Glad to have you here speaking with us, Sir. To begin with it, tell us more about your first steps towards football.
I started playing football at a very young age with my fellow friends in our village ground just opposite my house. Our local senior players and elders organised football camps for us where I learnt the basics of football.
Q: What inspired you to be a football player? Did you play at another position before midfield?
Firstly, football is the only sport that makes me happy. I grew up watching Ronaldo (Brazil) play. He is my one big inspiration.
I started playing as a striker when was playing in Manipur. I then played down the wings (both left and right) for Hindustan Aeronautics Limited Bangalore - my first I-League Club.
Q: Can you talk to us through North East's preferred attitude of football over cricket?
Cricket is of least interest here. We have massive crowd attendance even for a local tournament of football here. Cricket is never taken seriously.
Q: You were a part of NEROCA, the first club from Manipur to be crowned champions of the second division. What were the preparations leading up to such a competitive league and what does it take to attain the winning mentality and win trophies?
We were shown a roadmap that season by the management and coach. We were told that Durand cup, Manipur State League, Syeed Manoranjan Trophy, CC Meet and I League Divison 2 are tournaments/league we would be taking part in. We had a very good pre-season in Manipur.
We lost one game against Mohamaden Sporting in the I league and the Durand Cup Final against the Army Green. We were fully prepared for that particular season and as a result, we won 4 trophies won 1 runner-up prize. The team's preparation levels and seriousness towards every game we played helped us win the league that season with God's grace.
Q: You have played for a number of clubs including Mumbai FC, Bengaluru FC and HAL. How do you think participation for each of them has improved you as a player? Which of them in your opinion was the best, as far as your development is concerned?
My first I-League Club was Hindustan Aeronautics Limited Bangalore. I struggled a bit during the start of my I-League career rubbing shoulders with the big boys in the country. With due respect to all the clubs, I cannot forget the contribution of NEROCA FC - my first boyhood club. I didn't succeed with all the clubs that I've played with but I take good things and move forward.
However, BFC is the club where I learnt very good things to be a complete footballer.
Q: Your parent club NorthEast United are joint-top of the ladder with seven points from their three matches. What has been different this season from the previous one, where they finished bottom of the league?
With Elco coming in there's been a lot of good things to talk about. They are determined and you can see the extra energy in the team that is winning games for them.
Q: What do you make of their chances for this season? Can they lift the ISL trophy?
If they are consistent with this form right now, why not?
I wish them good luck for all the matches and hope they reach the playoffs.
Q: If you had to play alongside one player in midfield, from any nation, across any generation, ho would it be?
Ronaldinho or Zidane.
Q: If not a football player, what profession would you prefer?
I would love to be in the army serving the nation.
Q: What are the major difficulties you faced as an Indian footballer, or as a midfielder?
People always think that footballers can't earn a living by playing the sport. It was a tough task convincing my parents first (he chuckled).
I don't have complains. I'm least bothered about my height or anything else. Whatever God has given me - talent and speed, I make the most of it.
Q: Lastly, if you had to send out a message to young, budding football players in India, what would it be?
Believe in yourself and follow your dreams. Always stay humble.Published 25 Oct 2018, 12:26 IST