It was not usual for young football enthusiasts to gather around a sweet shop any day. Sweets are an absolute no-no for players who maintain a strict diet throughout the year, but these young guns of the Lunglei village in Mizoram did away with the stringent rulebook. The footballers, clad in different team shirts, were waiting outside eagerly for someone to come out.
Suddenly, amidst huge cheer, a tiny fellow, in the Blue Tigers shirt, popped out of the small wooden door of the shop with a big earthen pot filled with gulab jamuns. The elderly shop owner, with a smile on his face, received the price and blessed the footballer, who is well known even in the interior parts of Mizoram – he is none other than Lallianzuala Chhangte.
“Having sweets are not allowed for us under any circumstance, but this is one way we have thought of helping out the shopkeeper here. If buying sweets can bring back the smile for him and his family, then why not,” quizzed Chhangte before rushing off to the pitch for the weekend fixture.
The family that owned the sweet shop was close to Chhangte’s heart as their shop was close by the ground where he used to trains during his wee days.
“I still remember uncle used to try newer sweets and share with us first. While coming back from school, I used to have lunch at his place almost every day. They are so close to my heart,” he continued. “After the lockdown was eased off to some extent, I took due permission from the authorities and started going out for training. Then, I found how tough their lives have been. Their pain was constantly haunting me.”
Chhangte took up the initiative of gathering some youngsters who are a part of the reserve teams of various Indian Super League and I-League teams and started training. Soon, he floated the idea of helping the family in one way or the other. The shop was renowned for ‘Gulab Jamun’ and Chhangte utilised that to revive their business.
“After training the entire week, we started to schedule competitive matches on the weekends. I shared an idea of keeping a prize. Who doesn’t want to win something after breaking sweat?”
“Their gulab jamuns have earned from far and wide, and when I shared this proposition of getting the same as the bounty, everyone loved the idea. Thus, the Gulab Jamun Cup saw the light of the day,” Chhangte continued.
“It was a win-win situation for us. We could motivate more people to join us and play which would, in turn, be better for us all. On the other hand, buying sweets for so many people would help the shopkeeper’s family to sustain,” Chhangte said.
“As footballers, we are not allowed to have gulab jamuns at all. We mainly share them with our family and friends. If any player swallows one, we make sure he runs a couple of extra laps that day. It’s the perfect icing on the gulab jamun, isn’t it,” the 23-year-old laughed.