Midfielder Jeakson Singh was recently caught in controversy as he wore a multi-coloured flag during India’s celebration at the SAFF Championship in Bangalore last night. Singh was spotted in a flag wrapped over his national team jersey, which quickly caught the attention of Twitter users who identified it as the Kangleipak flag and accused it of being a Meitei nationalist symbol. The defensive midfielder had the flag on while collecting his winners’ medal and kept it on until he left the pitch.
However, Singh later took to Twitter in the following hours to address the controversy and explain his intention. “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,” the footballer wrote. He further clarified, stating, “This win is dedicated to all Indians” and that he hopes peace returns to Manipur, his home state.
The defensive midfielder’s statement caused a wave of support from fans on social media who defended his message of unity and peace during a difficult time for Manipur. Despite this, others still waged criticism towards the Blue Tigers player for using a symbol of the majority manipuri ethnicity to show unity during a time of heightened ethnic and communitarian conflict.
An ethnic struggle broke out in Manipur during May this year, between the majority Meitei population of the state and the tribal Kuki and Zo communities. Nearly a hundred people have died and 50,000 have been forced to relocate to relief shelters as the violence rages on in the state.
The Kerala Blasters midfielder is of Meitei ethnicity and was instrumental in India’s win over Kuwait in the SAFF Championship 2023. This is the country’s ninth triumph in the tournament and is a boost to the nation’s dream of qualifying for the 2026 World Cup in North America.