Kerala: Ruivah Hormipam might have one of the quickest journeys to becoming a fan favourite at Kerala Blasters FC. A lot of youngsters in his rural community recognize him as a sporting icon right now, courtesy of the fame of the Indian Super League (ISL) and Kerala Blasters FC.
But to understand Hormipam's love for football, you need to go back all the way to his school days where it all began.
Hormipam was born in the small village of Somdal, which has an estimated population of around 2,898. He is the fourth child among six siblings who grew up in an impoverished family, who earn their livelihood through farming. To use his time considerately, Hormipam still helps his parents and brothers in the fields during the holidays.
Hormipam did not feel like studying since childhood. Between studying and working in the fields, football was his biggest amusement and escape route from him. He often got scolded by parents and teachers for skipping assemblies and attending class in dirty uniforms.
"I honestly cannot remember the number of times I have been scolded and, on some occasions, caned by my parents for coming home late and dirty after a game of football beyond the allowed time," Hormipam told Village Square in an exclusive interview.
Hormipam's talent was apparent from a young age and things started to shift in his favour gradually. Soon his parents realised that it would be better to let their son fulfil his dream. Seeing his dedication and love for football, they also started encouraging him to follow football as a career.
In December 2016, his friend Semmi informed that the Sports Authority of India (SAI) was conducting football trials for their new centre at Takyel, Imphal. Semmi was already a trainee at SAI at the time and was living in the SAI hostel. Hormipam saw this as a make-or-break trial wearing torn boots and shorts and decided to stay hidden in Semmi's room during the trial period.
"For four days, I hid in his room. We were quite discreet about how I left the room for the trials and how I came back after the trials so that no one would notice. We shared his food, and I stayed in his room until the trials got over," Hormipam stated.
Hormipam's footballing journey began at the SAI academy and since then there has been no looking back for him. After spending more than a year at the SAI academy, he moved on to the youth ranks of Minerva Punjab Football Academy where he played a vital role for his side that won the Elite League in the 2018-19 season.
His impressive performance earned him a place in the Indian men's U-18 team that won the 2019 SAFF U-18 Cup held in Nepal. Ahead of the 2019-20 I-League season, Hormipam joined Indian Arrows where he continued his impressive performances at the club before making a return to Roundglass Punjab FC.
At Roundglass, he caught the eyes of Kerala Blasters FC management. In 2021, Hormipam made the move to Kerala Blasters FC, where he has continued to thrive. He quickly became a regular starter and was hailed for his mature performances at the back. The young defender formed a strong partnership with Marko Leskovic in his debut season where they lost the ISL final to Hyderabad FC on tiebreakers.
"It still hurts, losing on penalties in the manner that we did," the 22-year-old defender said.
Hormipam's aggressive style of defending strength and aerial ability make him a formidable opponent for opposing forwards, and he has already become a fan favourite among the KBFC faithful. He has now started making a name for himself and can help ease the financial burdens of his parents. Hormipam appreciated his parents for their unconditional dedication towards their work.
"It's part of who they are. They don't need to work in the fields to support us anymore but they're proud farmers who take much pride in the dignity of their labour. I'm proud of them for this," Hormipam opined.
Despite being only 22 years old, Hormipam has already earned numerous accolades for his performances on the pitch. It has been his consistent ground-breaking performances last season that earned him a call-up to the Indian men's national team where he made his senior debut in a friendly against Belarus back in March 2022. Hormipam has set his sights on a long footballing career.
"I just hope I can have a long career so I can do two things - play football and support my family," Hormipam concluded.