On 20 January, 2021, former India U-16 and U-19 team assistant coach Ngangkham Bitan Singh met with an accident and breathed his last. Credited with the emergence of players like Ninthoiganba Meetei, Nongdamba Naorem and Boris Singh Thangjam amongst many others, the 41-year-old was one of those characters whose hardwork and dedication towards football will undoubtedly live on through his wards. He is survived by his wife Mrs. Chingakham Nivedita Devi, a son and a daughter.
The sole earner in his family, Bitan’s sudden demise has left his family in a state of shock. Amongst the many roles that he had performed in his unfortunately short but fulfilling career was that of the U-15 team coach at the Minerva Academy. His former employer at Minerva, Ranjit Bajaj is one of the first people who has come forward to help his family in this time of crisis. The eccentric Bajaj, who is known for being a vocal critic of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), also tweeted a couple of days back asking for financial help and support for the family.
Bitan had a big role to play in grooming of all eight Manipuri players who were part of the U-17 World Cup in 2017. A former Churchill Brothers player himself, his last adventure was at the Centre of Excellence (CoE) set up by the TATA Trusts in Aizawl in 2018, where he was working as the senior assistant coach. He also served as the coach of the India U-14 team for a brief period.
The fact that he is so fondly remembered by everyone whose life he touched speaks volumes about the impact that he has had on them. In India where former players are forgotten as soon as they hang their boots, it is time that we step up as a collective fraternity and help his family out in whatever way possible. Only then will his tireless efforts towards the progression of Indian football be truly honoured. Over to the AIFF and state governing bodies, as well as the clubs where he has worked before both as player and a coach.