New Delhi: NorthEast United FC players and stakeholders feel the upcoming Indian Super League (ISL) opening ceremony will be a fitting recognition to the region's passion and contribution to football in India.
The home team will kick off the third edition of Indian Super League by taking on Kerala Blasters at the Indira Gandhi Stadium on 1 October .
The north east region has contributed massively to Indian football and produced excellent talent over the years. Indian football players from the region are delighted that Guwahati will be in the spotlight at it readies to host the opening ceremony of Hero ISL 2016, terming the move as a recognition of the region's passion for the beautiful game.
Reminiscing on playing at the Indira Gandhi Stadium, India's ace striker Jeje Lalpekhlua, says, "I still remember playing the first-ever international match at Indira Gandhi Stadium back in 2011. In the last five years football has really grown in the Northeast region in terms of infrastructure and talent, so it is fitting that this year's ISL opener is being staged in Guwahati."
Chennaiyin FC's Thoi Singh who hails from Manipur, adds, "Getting the distinction of hosting the first ISL game of the season is a reward for the passion that NorthEast has for the beautiful game. I would have loved to play this fixture but of course will be looking forward to our away game there as the atmosphere in Guwahati is always electrifying."
NorthEast United FC players are as excited and team owner John Abraham believes that hosting the opening ceremony will further boost the sport in the region which in turn would encourage many youngsters from this part of the country to take up the game professionally.
NorthEast United FC's homeboy, Seityasen Singh, says, "I feel extremely proud that Guwahati is the venue for this year's opening ceremony and I am happy that I shall be able to play on such a huge occasion against a team that also has a huge fan-base like ours.
"I am also delighted about the fact that the North-East can now draw the attention of the footballing fraternity towards itself via this event in Guwahati. Ever since the ISL has started, it has drawn the eyes of the entire country towards it. I am hopeful that the opening ceremony shall send out a message to everyone concerned about the importance of this region and highlight the importance that it holds in the annals of Indian footballing history."
NEUFC midfielder Lalrempuia Fanai adds, "I feel excited because as a player it is a once in a life-time opportunity for me to participate in such an event. I have several friends in Guwahati who tell me that they are eagerly looking forward to this event. I believe that the city and the North-East have finally got what they deserved.
"As our owner, John Abraham said, all the young kids watching the magnitude of this event shall be inspired and spurred on to participate in the future. It will also draw the eyes of the country towards North East and showcase the potential of the region.
A number of celebrities, ISL teams and owners will join the NorthEast team and the fans from the region to make the opening match a memorable one.