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Elangbam Panthoi Chanu’s tough journey from strife-torn Manipur to Australia

Goalkeeper to become first Indian footballer to play Down Under

Elangbam Panthoi Chanu’s tough journey from strife-torn Manipur to Australia

The last time Elangbam Panthoi Chanu packed her bags, she did so to flee her strife-torn native state of Manipur and seek refuge in unfamiliar territories.



PTI

Kolkata, March 26

The last time Elangbam Panthoi Chanu packed her bags, she did so to flee her strife-torn native state of Manipur and seek refuge in unfamiliar territories.

Hailing from Keirak village near Imphal, the 26-year-old Chanu has survived the relentless cycle of violence amid sleepless nights, and is poised to become the first Indian footballer to play professionally in Australia.

Their playing style is very different and I hope I can adapt quickly. I hope to do well and make my country proud. This has been my dream, to push myself to higher levels, and I want to do justice to this opportunity. Elangbam Panthoi Chanu, India goalkeeper

Chanu will be representing Metro United WFC in the South Australian Women’s National Premier League beginning Thursday, with a full season contract that runs till November, and is set to play about 18 matches. She will also train at the A-League club Adelaide United FC, said Paul Morris, head coach of Metro United WFC.

But, as the India goalkeeper boards the flight to Adelaide in the wee hours of Wednesday, the memories of Manipur’s turbulent past will weigh heavy on her heart.

“We had sleepless nights. About 20 kilometres away from Keirak, everything was burning,” she recalled about the Manipur violence.

“We had to be ready with our bags packed. Those were the dark days… but it’s normal now and I just pray that peace prevails in our region,” she added.

Panthoi’s journey is full of ups and downs. She had to defy societal norms and battled career-threatening injuries to become the Indian national goalkeeper.

Despite facing pressure from her parents to prioritise academics over sports, Panthoi pursued her passion relentlessly. “I just wanted to show them that I also can do something. I always had a fighting spirit and worked hard towards my goal,” she said.

She was selected for the Women’s Football Academy in 2008 and her journey began from there as a 10-year-old. As a 19-year-old, the goalkeeper was picked to be part of the squad for Round 1 of the qualifiers for the Rio Olympics.

She became the best goalkeeper in the second edition of the Indian Women’s League in 2017-18, representing Eastern Sporting Union. She also won the SAFF Championships twice (2014 and 2016) and South Asian Games twice (2016 and 2019).

In 2019, she won the National Championships with Manipur, taking the best goalkeeper award.

Her resolve was tested when she endured two career-threatening injuries to her shin bone within a span of one year. Despite the setbacks, Chanu refused to give up, undergoing rigorous rehabilitation to reclaim her India spot in a friendly against Nepal last year. “People said I won’t play again. But it made me all the more determined,” she said.

#Australia #Manipur


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