"I want peace" - Jeakson Singh explains reason for wearing Meitei flag after India's SAFF Championship 2023 win

Indian midfielder Jeakson Singh (left) with forward Sahal Abdul Samad. [Credits: AIFF]
Indian midfielder Jeakson Singh (left) with forward Sahal Abdul Samad. [Credits: AIFF]

Indian midfielder Jeakson Singh caught the attention of many with his attire during his team's post-match celebrations after their SAFF Championship 2023 success.

The Blue Tigers beat Kuwait 5-4 on penalties (1-1 after extra-time) to lift the trophy for the ninth time and defend their crown from last year. Jeakson played all 120 minutes of the contest, driving his side forward while also shielding the defense.

During the presentation ceremony, he had a multi-colored flag wrapped around him. This was the Meitei flag, representing their seven clan dynasties who were part of Ancient Manipur.

In the mixed zone after the presentation, Jeakson Singh was asked about his reason for sporting the flag. He replied:

"It was my Manipuri flag. I just wanted to tell Manipur and all of India to stay in peace and save Manipur. I want peace. It's been two months now and fighting is still going on. I just wanted to bring the government's and other people's attention to get peace, you know."

He was referring to the recent riots in Manipur, which has its roots in the Meitei people asking the Supreme Court for Scheduled Tribes status under the Indian constitution.

It reached an unfortunate peak in the month of May with a clash between the Meitei people and the tribal communities, including the Kuki and Zo clans. Violence continued throughout the month of May, with even Section 144 and an internet blackout being imposed at various times.

On June 3, the Indian Express reported that the death toll as a result of the riots had gone up to 98, while at least 310 were injured. On June 14, The Hindu reported that 11 people, including nine Meitei men, were shot, while a further 14 were injured.

Jeakson Singh was also asked if any of his family members had been affected by the violence to which he responded by saying they hadn't, before adding:

"Yeah, till now they're safe. But there are lots of families who have suffered and people who have lost their homes."

He added that he is unsure if he will be able to go home now even though the 2022-23 season has officially come to an end:

"It's difficult now, even for me to go back home. I don't know what will happen, but I hope things get well soon."

Jeakson notably added a statement on Twitter after receiving some backlash for wearing the Meitei flag. You can view it below:

Hope we achieve more big things: Jeakson Singh praises Indian team after SAFF Championship 2023 win

Jeakson Singh also spoke about the success enjoyed by the Indian team in recent months.

In the ongoing international break, they have won the Hero Tri-Nations Cup, Hero Intercontinental Cup and the SAFF Championship. The Blue Tigers seem to have grown in confidence with each passing tournament and Jeakson, who has started most of their games in this stretch, has played a pivotal role.

When asked how he felt after the win over Kuwait, the Kerala Blasters FC midfielder said:

"It always feels good when you beat a difficult team. I think this is my third trophy with the national team and I feel great. I hope we continue like this and achieve more big things."

Jeakson also spoke about his enhanced role in the team. He started four of India's five matches at the SAFF Championship, racking up 446 minutes and recording seven interceptions, three blocks, a tackle and 87.4% pass accuracy.

"I feel confident because of all my teammates and the way they support everything I do on the field. It's not just about me, everyone is doing well and we're getting results as well. Thanks to my teammates and the coaching staff as well for giving me confidence," he said.

At just 22 years of age, Jeakson has already established himself as one of India's premier midfielders. He is likely to continue playing a big part in the Blue Tigers' bid to continue their rise in the FIFA rankings.

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Edited by Habil Ahmed Sherule
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