For any football fan, the two months of off-season often feels like an eternity. This year, the action from Euro 2020 at least saved us a month of life without football but now that it is done and dusted, we’re all experiencing withdrawal symptoms. The endless scrolling on Social Media for transfer news and refreshing your newsfeed every five minutes for pre-season training photos is back.

I get it, I know how you feel. So, to maybe brighten up your day a little bit. I have compiled a few photographs I’ve taken in Baby Leauge over the years with a little bit of a back story on each one of them. I hope you like them!

A little bit of a Context: Ever since I moved back home in 2019, I have been lucky enough to be part of Ukhrul Basic Soccer Foundation which has helped organise Baby League football as well as yearly football leagues for High School Girls. A huge shout out to Ukhrul FC as well who have been greatly involved in Grassroots football and have also organised their own Baby Leagues. All these photographs are from the Baby Leagues that have been organised over the years in Ukhrul town.

Okay, back to the photographs!

1. The Making of Eliakim

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That feeling of finally coming on to make your debut!

There’s no feeling quite like making your debut! I was smiling all through as I took this photograph because I knew a little about this kid, Eliakim. Back on 13th May 2019, when Minerva Punjab FC came to Ukhrul and held trials for their Academy, this little boy who wasn’t any year older than 6-7 showed up. He had been training with Ukhrul FC under Tata Trusts and wanted to give trails but when he was told that he was too young to try out, he started sobbing and was inconsolable until he was allowed to have a run-out.

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The same boy is inconsolable after being told he was too young to partake in the trials.

Three months later on June 18, 2019, he finally made his debut for Ukhrul FC in the Baby League and I couldn’t be happier for him.

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Eliakim gets his first taste of competitive football!

2. The Muddy Pitches

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Where even is the ball at?

As much as you want to be in control when you’re organising/hosting Baby Leagues, the weather is one thing you cannot control. We shifted between two dirt pitches and one grassy ground for most of our Baby Leagues. When it rains while we’re playing on the dirt pitches, you cannot help but feel for the kids who deserve much more than the muddy pitches they play in.

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The positives of seeing the kids enjoy the beautiful game makes up for the dirty pitches most of the time but surely, we have to do more for these kids.

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Nimshon, who has been with our UBSF team as the only girl, sees the brighter side of playing in the mud.

3. Passion Personified

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N’Golo Kante, is that you?

This little boy played was playing like a house on fire. He was there for every ball, closed down every space, and the energy he showed was phenomenal for a kid as young as he was.

I tried my best to capture all these aspects of his play in a single photograph and my patience finally paid off with the shot below.

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Doesn’t matter how small I am, I am getting every ball!

4. It’s not always about winning. Have Fun!

In grass-roots football, it is imperative to teach the kids to have fun and not to dwell too much on winning or losing. However, sometimes in the thick of the action when coaches forget it isn’t always about winning, it is the kids who often remind us about the importance of having fun.

The following photographs are probably one of the happiest sequences of photographs I have taken in Baby Leagues.

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Yeah, I got this ball. Crunching tackleeee!!!!!

The little boy goes into a full-blooded challenge only to miss the ball and everyone completely.

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Hahaha! Looks like I missed the ball completely.

Instead of being mad, he is the first to see the funny side of his action and laughs while he’s still flat on his face.

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Well, it’s a good thing all of us saw the funny side in that.

Most of the players as well as the crowd had a good laugh at the audacious attempt to tackle by the little boy. It’s always “All about having Fun!”

5. Expressions

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Yikes! What was I thinking catching the ball like that!

The first instinct of every kid when the ball is about to hit their body or their face is to react by either ducking or blocking the ball with the hand. This little boy had inadvertently handled the ball inside the box in order to prevent the ball from hitting his belly. Lucky for him, it wasn’t inside his own defensive box.

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Get your act together boys!

The way in which this goalkeeper was commanding his team from the back was truly impressive. Some are just born to lead!

BONUS CONTENT

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Team photo for the ages!

Our U-10 team strikes the cutest of poses for their first-ever team photo as they geared up to take on the other teams in a U-12 tournament. Apart from introducing Nimshon (the girl from Muddy pitch story) to the U-12 team as the only girl in all the U-12 teams, we were also able to introduce three of our girls Phiphi, Jami, and Rinying to our mixed U-10 team.

I hope you liked this one!

By

Worngachan Shatsang

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