Meghalaya won a gold medal by defeating Punjab 2-0 in the final of the men’s football event of the Khelo India Youth Games 2024 in Chennai today.
This was the team’s fifth match and they proved their superiority by winning all five games.
Today, Badondor Marbaniang scored both goals to hand victory to Meghalaya, who had also beaten Punjab in the group stage.
Meghalaya’s campaign started with a 4-1 victory over Uttar Pradesh in Group A on January 23 before getting the better of Punjab two days later 2-1. Next came victory over hosts Tamil Nadu on 27th January by the same margin and Meghalaya’s perfect record saw them qualify for the semifinals at the top of the table.
Monday’s semifinal against Jharkhand was a real test as Meghalaya had to come from behind to win a thrilling contest 5-3 but they had no such issues today to lift the trophy.
Earning gold was a huge step up for Meghalaya, who had been knocked out in the semis in each of the last two editions of the Games. While a huge moment for the U-19 boys, this is also another feather in the cap of coach Jeffrey Warlarpih, one of the most successful youth coaches Meghalaya has today; it was under him that Meghalaya won the Sub-Junior National Football Championship in 2019 and the U-17 boys’ Subroto Cup in 2013.
Meghalaya and six of the other teams qualified for the Khelo India Youth Games this year after they finished as the best seven teams at last year’s Junior National Football Championship (Tier 1). Tamil Nadu, meanwhile, qualified as hosts.
Men’s football was the only event that Meghalaya participated in this year, a rather glaring admission of the amount of work that needs to be done to get the state to be competitive at the national level in other disciplines.