Soccer cheer for border row

A moment from the match. Telegraph picture
Jorhat, June 29 : More than 300 villagers from Nagaland today gathered at Geleky Athkhel playground in Sivasagar district of Assam to cheer for Tuli Paper Mill Football Club which clashed with Ratanpur Football Club of Sonari in the inaugural match of the Madhurima Das Memorial Trans-Border Running Football Tournament.
The tournament is being organised for the first time to foster peace between Assam and Nagaland, especially among villagers residing on the either side of the border.
The Tuli team won the match, which was inaugurated by former football star from Assam, Gilbert Sangma, who is now a senior official at the Ligiripukhuri-based 1st Assam Police Battalion, by 1-0.
“The game was played in a friendly atmosphere and there was no feeling of hatred among the players or the crowd,” Temsu Wati Ao, coordinator of the Border Peace Coordinating Committee, told this correspondent.
Altogether 10 teams, five from Assam and five from Nagaland, are taking part in the 10-day tournament.
Ao said only recently, the villagers from Nagaland, specially in the Geleky area, feared to enter Assam territory apprehensive of being attacked by their Assamese counterparts. “The border dispute has built such a feeling of hatred among the people but today it was an altogether different atmosphere,” he added.
The Sivasagar divisional forest officer, Ranjan Das, took a special initiative to organise the tournament, which has been named in the memory of his wife. “Das has donated the trophies for the tournament which will now be held every year,” Ao said.
A senior government official in Sivasagar said there was a feeling of joy and festivity among the people who gathered at the playground.
“The Nagaland team and the villagers were given a warm welcome as soon as they arrived at the playground,” the official said.
In the second match tomorrow, Sivasagar Football Coaching Camp will take on Semtem Club of Anaki Yimsen village.
Ao said a cultural function had been planned on July 7, the final day of the tournament. Artistes from both Nagaland and Assam will participate in it. “We expect some senior Nagaland government officials to attend the concluding function,” he added