Punjab FC are currently placed second on the I-League points table with 21 points to their name and one of their players who has impressed viewers has been young Makan Winkle Chothe. Having just turned 20 in January, he has featured in 12 out of 13 games played by the Warriors and has found the net twice so far in this campaign.
His performances for the side from north India have made heads turn but it was in a small village named Purum Chumbang in the Chandel district of Manipur that his footballing journey began.
“I began playing football when I was 10 years old,” Chothe recounted. “Football is quite popular in my village but I am the first player from my area to become a professional.”
Hailing from a family of farmers, means were limited for him and at 15 years of age, he took a leap of faith to push himself towards his dream. “I wanted to be a football player, but we had financial problems, which made it very difficult. However, thanks to my uncle, I got the chance to play for a team in Siliguri and I wanted to make the most of it,” he said.
A year later, he was signed by the erstwhile Minerva Punjab FC after a successful trial and the move paid rich dividends for both parties very quickly. Chothe led them to the 2018-19 Hero Elite League crown, where they defeated FC Pune City in the final and it was Chothe who scored the first goal in a 2-0 win, while also ending as the team’s top scorer in the competition with eight goals.
“It feels great being a part of this team. My coach played me in a match against the senior team for 70 minutes and liked my game. Then, I started training with the seniors and it’s been really amazing so far – getting to learn so much and improving every day,” Chothe, a self-confessed fan of Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo, gushed.
He made five appearances for his team in the AFC Cup last season and has already surpassed his I-League appearance tally as compared to the previous campaign, which has also seen him score his debut senior-level goal with a cracking individual effort in a 3-3 draw away at Aizawl FC.
“It feels great to play in the I-League and I am thankful to my coaches for giving me this opportunity. I have learnt a lot by playing against some of the top teams and players in India, such as decision-making, improving my passing and being comfortable with the ball,” he explained.
The Punjab FC’s roster boasts of a number of vastly-experienced players such as Sanju Pradhan, Anwar Ali, Nirmal Chettri and Cavin Lobo – all the players who have represented the senior national team and played at the highest level domestically. Chothe mentioned that it is a ‘privilege’ to play alongside these players and that he hopes to play for India one day as well.
“To play alongside such seniors is a privilege as well as a massive learning opportunity. The most important thing one can learn from them is their levels of discipline and how they keep themselves fit. Hopefully, I can emulate them and play for India one day,” he signed off.