Hailing from Imphal, Manipur, 16-year-old Ninthoinganba Meitei is a midfielder in the Under-17 national team. His is a story of relentless commitment and grit despite losing his father to thyroid cancer.
A big fan of Cristiano Ronaldo and Sunil Chhetri, Ninthoi is also exceptional at taekwondo, which he occupied himself with before beginning his football journey. Born in a modest family, his father was a farmer and his mother a fish seller.
In his interview with The Times of India, Ninthoi talked about how he promised his father Manglemb that he would make it to the Indian team. Now, having made it to the national team, Ninthoi will also be playing in the U-17 World Cup in Delhi. Recalling an incident when he landed at Imphal airport soon after a tour of Mexico and it was his uncle, not his father, who was waiting to receive him, he said,
"Every time it was my father who would receive me, but this time my uncle was there at the airport. I knew something was wrong and it was then that my uncle told me that father wasn’t keeping too well."
As soon as he was home, he rushed to hug his father who was lying on the bed, weak and in agonising pain because of the thyroid cancer he had been suffering from. Apparently, Ninthoi's family had kept him in the dark about his father's condition because they didn't want him to get distracted in any way.
He told The Times of India,
"It was the toughest phase of my life. I couldn’t see my father like that but he promised to come and see me in Delhi for the World Cup. He even took my phone and recorded a message, a sound that you can hear when people cheer at the stadium."
Though he didn't want to leave his father's side, he promised to make it to the national team and play in the World Cup. A few months ago, while Ninthoi was preparing for a tour in Delhi, he got a call from home that his father had passed away.
A teary-eyed Ninthoi could hardly contain his emotions during his chat with The Times of India. He said,
"Honestly, now I fear nothing. I don't feel any pressure of playing in the World Cup. The only pressure I ever felt was to make it to the Indian team, just the way my father wanted it."