India U-19 forward finds training partner in her mother during lockdown

New Delhi [India], May 10 (ANI): Amid the coronavirus induced lockdown in the country, athletes are finding it difficult to continue their training but India U-19 forward Ninthoinganba Meetei has found a solution as he is training with his mother at the courtyard of their house.

"I am not used to staying out for too long. I wanted to get back on the field again. While I was kicking it around in the yard, my mother saw me and said that she would help me train. I knew she could not play football, so I was wondering how we could train together," the All India Football Federation (AIFF) quoted Meetei as saying.

"Soon I realised that when she was younger, she used to play volleyball. And she still knows some basics of the game. So I came up with the idea of playing foot-tennis. Only, I would be using my feet, and mom would be using her hands as you do in volleyball," he added.

Ninthoi, as the 18-year-old is fondly called in the dressing room, has been looking at different ways to train while staying within the confines of his home during the lockdown. However, it was the involvement of his mother, Kh Meena Leima, that really helped him find an exercise that lets him both practice his touches on the ball, and also a bit of running.

"This little game that we play has given us both a good workout. Of course, we can't play when it rains, but it's a lot of fun playing with my mother. And she's been enjoying the game too. She hasn't played volleyball for many years, but now that we have been playing for some time, I can clearly see that she's getting better," the striker said.

After joining the AIFF Elite Academy in 2013, Ninthoi has had a steady progression over the years. The nimble winger went on to make the India squad in the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017, starting in all of India's group stage matches.

Ninthoi got his first professional contract when he signed for the Indian Arrows in the 2017-18 I-League season. Recalling that moment he said, "It meant that my mother did not have to sell fish in the market anymore. I could provide for her and my two sisters."

"She always used to call me her 'little bodyguard' whenever I used to accompany her or my sisters to the market or to school. Now I felt that I was really looking after my family," he added.

The young winger has since gone on to play two seasons for the Indian Arrows, lodging 27 appearances in the I-League and the Super Cup, with two goals to his name.

Following these performances, Ninthoi was snapped up by the Indian Super League club NorthEast United FC where he made 11 appearances in the 2019-20 season.

"Now that I am a professional footballer I can safely state that nobody in my family has to sell fish in the markets anymore. But I will never forget my mother's contribution to my development," he concluded. (ANI)