Push for Sikkim-soccer bond
Sikkim’s love affair with the beautiful game continues to flourish with youths in their hundreds taking to the football fields across the state braving the winter, thanks to the initiatives of the government and individuals like former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia.
Three major soccer events are currently underway in different parts of the state with the objectives of providing a platform to aspiring talents, unearth new ones and provide entrainment to the football-mad public in general.
The Sikkim sports department has taken a lead in this regard by first reviving the inter-constituency football tournament to provide aspiring footballers across state with an opportunity to showcase their skills, and hunt for new talents in collaboration with the Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools.
The inter-constituency tourney involving all 32 Assembly seats kick-started at the Paljor Stadium here on Monday for teams from the East and North districts. Namchi in South Sikkim and Dentam in West district are the other two venues for the meet. The final will be held at Jorethang in South Sikkim on January 15.
“The tournament is being revived after a long gap by the new government to encourage the youth to take to the game, promote physical fitness and also wean them away from anti-social behaviour,” said C.L. Rai, the deputy director (headquarters) of the state’s sports and youth affairs department.
The department has tied up with Bhutia to hold a winter camp for children below the age of 15 in what is billed as “Prince of Football Talent Hunt”.
“The sports department and the Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools have started winter camps in all four districts. We will take one under-13 team and one under-15 team to Delhi. We will also take two kids on an exposure trip to Europe for seven-eight days,” said Bhutia.
Apart from the two state-level football events, the ninth edition of the All India Chief Minister’s Gold Cup International Football Tournament is also being played at Jorethang.
Fourteen teams from Sikkim, Kalimpong, Darjeeling, Shillong, Kolkata, Punjab, Nepal and Bhutan are taking part in the 15-day tournament. The final will take place on January 19.
Sikkim’s sports minister Kunga Nima Lepcha said the government under the leadership of chief minister P. S. Tamang (Golay) was very keen on promoting sports.
“The state government has given priority to sports to make the youths physically fit and mentally sound,” he said.