Jeakson Singh Thounaojam, who became the first Indian to score a World Cup goal, was so passionate about football even in his childhood that he did not take food for more than two days when his parents told him to stop playing the game and concentrate on his studies.
Bilashini Devi, mother of 16-year-old Jeakson, said she and her husband Deben Singh wanted their son to become a bureaucrat but he was adamant on taking up the game.
"Jeakson was a topper and Amarjit Singh (current India captain) was second from class 2 to 4 in local school. We wanted Jeakson to become an IAS officer but he did not agree at all. He started playing from four years old. We have a small playground in front of our house and he will play all day, even forgetting to eat food," Bilashini told PTI today.
"I remember once he fasted for more than two days for telling him he should stop playing football and concentrate on his studies. After that we did not tell him again. Since his father was also a footballer, we stopped pressurising Jeakson and gave him permission to play football," she added.
Deben played for local sides in Manipur and was with Manipur Police football club. Two years ago, he suffered a stroke, which left Bilashini as the only bread earner of the family at Haokha Mamang village in Manipur's Thoubal district.
Bilashini, who was here along with his husband to watch India's matches on the arrangements of All India Football Federation, said that she had goosebumps when her six feet two inches tall son scored India's equaliser against Colombia yesterday to enter his name in the record books.
"We had not thought he would score a goal but suddenly it happened and I was having goosebumps. We were happy thinking that our son played for India and even scored a goal. In the next minute, even before the celebrations died down, they (Colombians) scored. It was a bit let down. It was very sad. It would have been better had India won," she said.
"My phone has not stopped ringing since 10pm last night. My relatives and friends from Manipur have been congratulating us for Jeakson scoring the goal," said Bilashini, who sells clothes in Imphal, 25 km from her home, to make ends meet for her family.
Asked how passionate Jeakson was about football, she said, "When his father told Jeaskon to study, he will do that for 10-15 minutes and will then disappear. Once his father is out of home, Jeakson used to close his books and run out to play football. Even in rains, he and Amarjit will play football by covering their heads with plastic sheets."
She said her family's poor financial condition is such that she is having problems to bear the incidental expenses during their stint here.
"We cannot ask the AIFF to bear the cost of everything, we cannot ask them to pay for small personal spendings. But for us, it's a financial issue for even incidental expenses here. We have to restrict ourselves in personal spending.
"We are poor and we have come here to watch our son play but it is a burden on us. We have suffered a lot of difficulties but Jeakson is playing at the World Cup level, so momentarily we are forgetting those hardships."
Jeakson and Amarjit are cousins and had both left for Chandigarh in 2010 as nine year olds and were admitted to the Chandigarh Football Academy. Later, Amarjit was selected for India U-17 camp in the AIFF Academy in Goa in 2015. Jeakson joined the camp in March this year only.
"When Amarjit was selected, Jeakson initially told us he was also selected. But since he was very tall (then coach) Nicolai Adam thought Jeakson could be over-aged and was left out. When he came home that year he said he thought of dying by jumping out of the aeroplane."
Bilashini said she and her husband wants Jeakson to become a famous footballer.
"Football is his future. We want him to play in big clubs and be a successful player. We want him to continue his passion. Not only money he should be successful.