Former India players, including Renedy Singh and Venkatesh Shanmugam, mourned the untimely death of their teammate Manitombi Singh and recalled him as a ‘fighter’ on the pitch and a ‘friend’ off it.
Manitombi, a former India and Mohun Bagan footballer, died aged 39 at his native village near Imphal in Manipur on August 9 after suffering from a prolonged illness.
Former India player Renedy Singh who played alongside Manitombi for both country and club under his leadership at Mohun Bagan, said that he used to inspire the rest of the players in the team.
“As a captain, you have to often lead by example. Manitombi was that kind of a captain. He worked hard on the pitch, and that’s how he inspired the rest of us. When you think of a tough tackler like him, you’d rather have him on your side fighting for every ball, than in the opposition ranks,” said Renedy.
He also appealed the people to help Manitombi’s wife and 8-year-old son. “His wife doesn’t have a job and his son is only 8 years old. I request everyone to donate a bit and help his family. I know it’s a difficult time for everyone in this world so please donate only if you feel comfortable. Whatever amount big or small will be a great help for the family,” Renedy added.
Manitombi, a right full-back came off the bench against hosts Vietnam on August 6, 2002 to make his international debut. Besides representing India in that tournament, he played in two friendlies against Jamaica at Watford and Wolverhampton.
He represented India in the 2002 Asian Games in Busan as well. At the club level, he captained Mohun Bagan to win the Airlines Gold Cup in 2004. He donned the Green and Maroon colours for consecutive two seasons (2003-2004) wherein he scored 3 goals.
He was part of the Mohun Bagan’s triumphant IFA Shield campaign in 2003. He represented Manipur in Santosh Trophy.
All India Football Federation (AIFF) condoled the death. AIFF general secretary Kushal Das said, “Manitombi was a talented footballer and full of energy. May his soul rest in peace”.
Reminiscing about their playing days, Venkatesh felt that Indian football has lost an asset with Manitombi’s death, as he was coaching a number of youngsters in Manipur.
“His playing days were over, but I feel that Indian football has lost a really good coach. After completing his career, he was coaching a lot of young talented Manipuri boys. The knowledge that he was imparting to all these young players who were coming through the ranks under him is now gone. Indian football will miss him,” said Venkatesh.
Venkatesh added, “I had seen him put in some really good performances on the pitch. He was an absolute fighter, but more important was the consistency that he brought in. You know that if he’s there on the pitch, he will give you eight out of 10 every time”.