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Siliguri mulls academy

Siliguri, Sept. 20: The academy fever seems to have caught on everywhere. Now the Siliguri Mahakuma Krira Parishad and the Siliguri Municipal Corporation, along with other semi-government organisations, have floated the idea of a football academy in the city. Mayor Bikash Ghosh says plans on this will be finalised after the pujas, though he is not sure if he will get a sponsor or sponsors for the project.

The general level of involvement remains high hereabouts, with the Super Division added onto the first and second divisions three years back. There are 25-30 teams (the number varies year to year) in the three divisions. Vivekananda Club are the Super Division champions and Mahananda Club the first division toppers. The expense for this is around Rs 25 lakh, but Ghosh says it is here that he draws the line.

“I see to it that the junior coaching camps — 18 of them, in different paras — stay funded and the Municipal Corporation also bears the expense of the coaching and a tournament to boot,” said Ghosh. “Each year we provide 400 pairs of boots and jerseys and shorts to the 600-odd trainees. We also provide for the new inter-school league (the last one had 14 teams). But beyond that we try to get the sponsors, though not many have really come forward so far.”

Yet, the academy. How does Ghosh justify this plan' “We have produced a number of good players over the years,” he explains. “Now five-six players from Siliguri regularly play in Calcutta. We had Manjit Singh (son of the great Piara Singh) as the forerunner, and we regularly call up ex-stars and coaches from Calcutta to provide the necessary boost.

“We have already selected 60 under-19 players for this and the academy will be housed at the Kanchenjungha Stadium itself,” said Ghosh.

There is a new sports museum and library coming up at one of the wings. He said he will need Rs 2 lakh per year for the academy and said he has “had talks” with Surajit Sengupta, Prasun Banerjee and Bhaskar Ganguly for the coaching jobs. “But I understand they will not be able to station themselves here for this, so we need local coaches as well.”All that sounds great. But who is paying' “We will have to look into this,” says Ghosh. “We have approached many businessmen, but...”

The Municipal Corporation is doing pretty good work here (it even has a mayor in council for sports, but possibly it is this spoonfeeding that is now allowing local soccer initiatives to stand on its own two feet.

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