MHRPA IMPHAL, 29th Nov: In a most strongly contested match India B, Manipur defeated Argentina 7-6 to lift the winner’s trophy of the 11th Manipur Polo International 2017. The final match saw a record turn out of spectators who got the worth of their time as it proved to be a cracker of a match, played at a very fast pace with both the teams putting their all in offence and defense to secure a win.
Argentina was the first team to score through a 30 yards penalty by Juan Cruz Gramajo in the 1.22th. But it was not long before Manipur team responded, Bimol scoring with a beautiful goal from a very acute angle in the 1.40th minute and the packed stadium greeted it with a thunderous cheer. Then L Atangba, the youngest member of the team, and who has been very impressive in his maiden appearance in the Manipur Polo International tournament, picked up an Ojit pass to slot the ball home in the 4.35th minute. The Argentina team after some near misses came up with two goals from Juan Cruz the last one from a 30 yards penalty to lead 3-2 at the end of the chukker.
Argentina got another 30 yards penalty in the 2.56th minute of the 2nd chukker which Juan Cruz once again converted to surge ahead 4-2, leaving the huge Manipuri team supporters a little worried. But captain Pradeepkumar rose to the occasion, scoring two goals to draw level 4-4 at the end of the 2nd chukker.
At the very start of the 3rd chukker, Miguel scored for Argentina but Manipur answered with two goals from P Ojit and Pradeepkumar to the lead for the first time in the match. The chukker ended with score reading 6-5. In the fourth chukker also Miguel of Argentina scored an early goal in the .49th minute to level the score 6-6. Manipur once again took the lead through another goal in the middle of this last chukker and managed to hold on to it till the final gong. But in between there were many tense moments for the Manipur team as the Argentines mounted many an attack and came very near to scoring.
For the Argentine team captain Martin losing was difficult to take in as traditionally they are very passionate about every game and they play to win. Juan Cruz who scored four of the six Argentine goals even while congratulating the winning Manipuri team said they were unlucky as they missed many a scoring chances, he himself failed to convert three 60 yards goals. He also said they could not play like they had played against England as the Manipuri team did not allow them, also they hit too many balls on the horses. As they get very involved in the game, Juan Cruz revealed, they do not feel good about losing.
L Atangba, who in his first time with the Manipur team impressed with his cool calm manner on the field and his ability to be in the right position to score said he felt immensely happy to be part of this winning team. He also thanked his senior colleagues for encouraging him. Captain Pradeepkumar said getting to play Argentina considered the strongest polo team in the world is a great honour and feels immensely happy to have beaten them. For him this victory is a vindication that polo originated from Manipur. He also revealed that the team management watched the Argentine Morocco exhibition match very closely and had put in place strategies on how best to play with them.
On being asked what should be the best reward for this victory, Pradeep said the government can send out a very positive message of encouragement to polo players if suitable jobs are provided to team members Jogendra Meitei, L Atangba, P Ojit and Th Jacob and promotion given to himself and S Bimol. Manipur governor and chief guest of the closing event, Dr Najma Heptulla presented the winners trophy and a cheque of Rs. 1, 00,000 to India B Manipur, while president of the function, Y Khemchand gave away the runners-up trophy and a cheque of Rs. 50,000 to Argentina.
Also in attendance were Th Shyamkumar, minister MAHUD; Nemcha Kipgen, minister Social Welfare; and PVSLN Murthy, chief general manager, State Bank of India, NE Circle, Guwahati.