India's Jeakson Singh creates uproar with ‘Manipur flag’ celebration after SAFF Cup win; issues clarification
As India celebrated the win Jeakson Singh had a multi-coloured flag wrapped over his jersey, which drew plenty of eyeballs.
“Jeakson Singh, Mahesh Singh, Udanta Singh. These three were part of the Indian team that won the SAFF Championship 2023 and they are from Manipur. Yes Manipur, that has been burning for the last two months. So when you celebrate the win today, remember Manipur,” read a tweet after India clinched their ninth SAFF Cup title at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru, defeating Kuwait 5-4 in the penalty shootout on Tuesday.
All three players are an integral part of the Indian national team and played a key role in helping the Blue Tigers lift their second silverware in a little over a fortnight.
As India celebrated the win and formed a line to collect their winners' medal, Jeakson, out of the three, had a multi-coloured flag wrapped over his jersey, which drew plenty of eyeballs. As confirmed by Jeakson it was his “Manipur flag”, which he donned as a sign of unity, urging nothing but peace in his state.
“It's my Manipur flag. I just wanted to tell everyone in India and Manipur to stay in peace and not fight. I want peace,” he told ESPN.
Not only did Jeakson collect the SAFF championships winners medal with the flag wrapped, it was on display till he left the field with Mahesh.
However, Jeakson's gesture didn't go well as a section of fans condemned the act, despite it being for a noble reason. Others extended their support to the midfielder, who is also the first Indian player to score a goal in FIFA World Cup.
Jeakson, however, didn't waste much time to react to the criticism and clarified his intentions were not to hurt anyone, dedicating the win "to all the Indians."
“Dear Fans, By celebrating in the flag, I did not want to hurt the sentiments of anyone. I intended to bring notice to the issues that my home state, Manipur, is facing currently. This win tonight is dedicated to all the Indians,” he wrote on social media.
“I hope that peace returns to my home state of Manipur. Thank you to the fans for coming out and supporting the team tonight!” he tweeted, with hashtags “Save Manipur” and “Peace and Love” apart from “India” and “SAFF Championship 2023”.
“It is not easy to focus on football when you keep reading or hearing of disturbing news about where you and your loved ones live. But these players (Udanta, Jeakson, Mahesh) have been wonderful,” India head coach Igor Stimac had told this newspaper ahead of the Intercontinental Cup, which was played last month.
Manipur has been in turmoil for over two months now, with over 120 people killed, and more than 300 injured, while thousands have been displaced. Tensions have only escalated since May 3 after ethnic violence between the Meitei community and the Kukis.