Manipur has been at the forefront when it comes to producing talented football players in India and some of the players from the state have made big names for themselves in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL).

Chinglensana Singh of Hyderabad FC and Suresh Wangjam of Bengaluru FC who played crucial roles for their respective teams in helping them reach the semi-finals and final respectively. 

And with no time to rest, the Manipuri duo will be out to represent the Indian national team that will take part in the Hero Tri-Nation International Tournament featuring Myanmar and Kyrgyz Republic. 

There will be added motivation for Chinglensana and Suresh as the tournament will be played in Imphal, in Manipur, their home state.

“Welcome to my home, lads,” said Chinglensana, with a grin stretching across the circumference of his face.

“I’ve been receiving a lot of calls and messages from people back home, ever since it was announced that Imphal will host the Hero Tri-Nation,” added the India defender.

Football is a sport that is close to the hearts and minds of the people of Manipur. However, midfielder Suresh Wangjam feels that his home state has, within it, an innate sports culture, which makes it all the more special.

“It’s not just football. People in Manipur love playing a wide variety of sports like boxing, badminton, hockey, weightlifting, and many others,” said the 22-year-old who hails from the land that has produced great athletes like Mary Kom and the Mirabai Chanu.

“I remember when it was announced that Imphal will host the Hero Tri-Nation, everyone in my family was so excited. They could see me play for India in our home town, that’s something special,” said Suresh.

“They’ve always come to the stadium to watch me whenever I play in Imphal in the Hero I-League, but this will be a much bigger stage.

“Of course, a lot of relatives have requested tickets, which is quite normal for a football crazy state like Manipur," he added.

Chinglensana is of the firm belief that it is because top players like Renedy Singh or Gouramangi Singh, who became role models at the national level that the current crop of players from the state have come this far.

“We have all grown up watching Renedy bhai or Mangi (Gouramangi) bhai play for the National Team, and now it’s an honour that we are carrying the tradition forward. I myself had idolised Mangi bhai since I was a kid and learned a lot about defending from watching him play,” said Chinglensana.

It's not just the home boys that are excited at the prospect of playing at the Khuman Lampak Stadium. Anirudh Thapa, who had played at the venue last year for his club Chennaiyin FC in the Durand Cup, was also looking forward to the two upcoming games.

“It’s a surreal experience, playing at the Khuman Lampak. The stands would be filled to the brim, and they would be cheering the team on. Of course, I’ve been on the receiving end of that stick, but it would be great to have them on our side this time round,” said Thapa.

“I hope they come out in even bigger numbers this time, and we play with the full vocal support of the Imphal faithful,” he said.

India play Myanmar in the opening game on Wednesday before facing Kyrgyz Republic on March 28.