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Bhaichung fan in Team India
- Sikkim’s Nima in SAFF women’s squad

Gangtok, July 18: She shares Bhaichung Bhutia’s surname and love for the beautiful game. Nima Lhamu Bhutia, like her idol, will represent the Indian side.

She’s Sikkim’s latest face in the Indian women’s side for the SAFF Cup.

The 20-year-old forward, 5ft 5 inches tall, is training at the SAI centre in Calcutta’s Salt Lake. “I am happy I got selected for the national team and I will give my best,” Nima told the Metro over phone from Calcutta. Nima’s earlier training grounds were at the Women’s Football Academy at Mangalbaria in West Sikkim which was established by a teacher of Mangalbaria Senior Secondary school, Palden Bhutia, in 2005. Nima now works as a government sports teacher at Deythang Junior High School in West Sikkim.

“Nima plays forward and has already represented the state in different national football tournaments and impressed all with her skills,” said coach Palden Bhutia.

In 2010, she was selected for the Under-19 Asian Football Confederation Cup at Dhaka and for an exhibition match at Bahrain in 2011. Coach Palden Bhutia said Nima was hard working and has been able to score at national and international matches.

The South Asian Football Federation Cup will kick off in Sri Lanka on September 1.

Palden Bhutia said Nima’s success has “encouraged” other young girls in the academy to try for the national side.

Menla Ethenpa, the general secretary of Sikkim Football Association, said the All India Football Federation spotted Nima’s skill almost two years back when she represented Sikkim in the National Senior Women Football tournament held in Odisha.“It is indeed a proud moment for the state that a woman football player has once again got the opportunity to represent the country in SAFF,” said Ethenpa.

At least two other women players from Sikkim —Pushpa Chhetri and Anuradha Chhetri — have played for the national side. Asked which player she liked the most, Nima mentioned Bhaichung and Sunil Chhetri, another soccer star from Sikkim.