United Sikkim players along with Bhaichung Bhutia (standing seventh from left) and the club officials at Paljor Stadium in Gangtok on Friday. Picture by Prabin Khaling
Gangtok, Jan. 10: United Sikkim has signed up seven new players, including former international-level footballers Sur Kumar Singh and James Singh, with an eye on the upcoming Federation Cup.
Inclusion of striker Enock from Nigeria and attacking midfielder Adeleja from Ghana will give teeth to the club also known as Snow Lions — the animal is United Sikkim’s mascot.
The team will leave for Manjeri in Kerela tomorrow for the Federation Cup that starts on January 14.
The tourney is being organised by the All India Football Federation.
Footballers like Sukwinder Singh, Dharamjit Singh and goalkeeper Diptendu Sarkar will give new options to coach S. Ekendra Singh from Manipur who joined the club a week back.
“We are looking forward to the Federation Cup. We have strengthened the squad with seven new players and it is a great opportunity for them to show their talent against bigger clubs. I hope that the players will help the club progress from the group stage and also benefit themselves by getting noticed by the bigger clubs,” United Sikkim co-founder Bhaichung Bhutia said.
Coach Ekendra, senior manager Arjun Rai, physio Sheril Lepcha and assistant manager Nar Bhupendra Kewa would accompany a 20-member squad of United Sikkim to Manjeri.
In the tournament, the Sikkim club is in Group D along with Former I-League champions Dempo, Mohammedan Sporting Club and Bhawanipore Football Club.
“There is positivity in the team with the signing of the new players. We are optimistic about the tournament,” said Rai.
Only one squad from each of the four groups would go to the semifinal stage in the 16-team championship.
“I have taken charge of the team only five days back but my aim is very high. With the help of the players, I will give my best for the tournament,” said Ekendra, the former coach of Sporting Clube de Goa.
“The players are new to me and at the moment, it is difficult for me to assess each one of them individually. I hope the footballers will deliver at the Federation Cup and continue their momentum for the upcoming second division I-League matches,” he added.
Local footballer Milan Lepcha is captaining United Sikkim for the Federation Cup.
Bhaichung said: “We got very little time to train the new players with the other footballers of the team. The combination may take time to click but our new players are experienced and I am sure they will adjust well.” Bhaichung would not travel to Kerela with the team. He will be in Delhi where the Under-14 United Sikkim team would play at the India leg of the Manchester United Premier Cup.