Indian Football: Minerva Punjab’s Thoiba Singh becomes youngest goal-scorer in AFC Cup history
Minerva Punjab’s Thoiba Singh Moirangthem wrote his name in the history books yet again when he became the youngest goal-scorer in the history of the AFC Cup. The Manipur-born striker scored against Nepalese club Manang Marshyangdi in the 39th minute of the game to create a new record in the tournament’s history.
Born on December 12, 2002, Thoiba is 16 years and 154 days old. His goal, though, was not enough to earn a much-needed win for his club. Minerva are placed in the third position in the table with four points from as many matches and their chances to reach the next round look bleak.
Thoiba also created history last year when he became the youngest ever player in the I-League. His debut against Indian Arrows marked a new chapter in the youngster’s career and he has only developed himself since.
The former I-League champions went face-to-face against Manang knowing that only a win can keep their hopes of reaching the next stage alive.
In this game, Minerava didn't have too many opportunities in the first half, but they somehow took the lead in the 39th minute, after a clever throw-in, which ended with Thoiba’s right-footed shot going into the net.
The match was marked by several controversies. Minerva Punjab’s Prateek Joshi was shown a second yellow card just few seconds before half-time. The Chandigarh-based side was forced to play entire second half with ten-men and looked visibly fatigued at the time of conceding.
In the second half, Minerva were denied a clear penalty and also had a goal ruled out for off-side. Both the decisions were controversial, given the outcome of the match.
Also, the referee should have ruled out Manang’s goal. Before Oluwashina Azeez scored the equaliser in the 82nd minute with an attempt from the centre of the box, he clearly fouled Minerva goalkeeper Arsh Saini. But the referee completely overlooked it.
Minerva have already earned reputation by promoting young talents through their well-organised academy. Their age-level teams are one the best in the country.
In a conversation at the time, Minerva owner Ranjit Bajaj heaped praise of Thoiba. “He’s just 15 or 16 and has come back from one of those AIFF age group tournaments. Today he played as a central defender but in the last match against Arrows, we played him in different positions - defender, winger and as an attacking midfielder,” Bajaj had said.