Gangtok, Nov.3 : Nestled in the lap of Himalayas, Sikkim despite being a tiny State has carved out a name in the field of football. Recently Sikkim hosted the 30th edition of All India Governor's Gold Cup, one of the premier football tournaments in the country with utmost festive spirit.
Leading teams from various parts of India have been participating in this tourney held at Gangtok.
To name a few teams, ITI, HAL, MEG and CIL from Bangalore, Titanium and Alind from Kerala, Salgaokar, SESA Goa, Dempo and Vasco from Goa, Tata, Mafatlal and Mahindra and Mahindra from Mumbai apart from teams from West Bengal, Punjab and Assam have taken part in this tournament.
Fifteen teams including one each from Nepal and Bhutan also participated in this prestigious 12-day tournament.
"Indian Captain Bhaichung Bhutia is our product. Bhaichung was spotted in a local match and these East Bengal people spotted him and he was taken to Kolkata for a match. Today, he is an icon of Indian football and captain of Indian footfall team too. Besides, we have almost a dozen of Sikkim boys playing in leading football clubs today and this Gold Cup has become a platform for these boys," said Menla Ethenpa ,General Secretary, Sikkim Football Association.
It's been 16 years when the present Indian Football team captain Bhaichung Bhutia drew everyone's attention by his impressive performance in the tournament. The tournament proved a much-needed platform , as it drew him into limelight and helped him enter East Bengal football club in those days.
"I think there is a lot of talent. Football is a tough sport, where you need tough people to play the game. So I think the tough ones come from North East. The Sports Ministry should do something to develop football in the North East. But we need to catch them young so that they can learn better," said Karma Bhutia, Vice President of the Sikkim Football Association.
Several local youngsters here today are keen to take up this game as a profession.
"India especially is a very interesting market for us because we find new football converts coming every day. We have hundreds of people who are getting interested about football. So what we are trying to do to use the electronic medium to popularize football in different cities and states. Today domestic following is more in football than in cricket," said Kapil Chettri, Business Development Head for Goal.com India
In this year's edition, Nepal which remained the runners-up in 2007, lifted the glittering cup, defeating former champions Army XI by a solitary goal in the pulsating final played at Paljor Stadium before at least 50,000 cheering spectators.
The All India Governor's Gold Cup has been a platform for young footballers of Sikkim to show their immense potential and earn nationwide recognition. It may not be an exaggeration to say that Sikkim is emerging as a nursery for enthusiastic footballers.
A growing number of youngsters in Sikkim are getting drawn towards football these days. Belonging to the home State of Baichung Bhutia, India' ace footballer, they are finding it an increasingly fascinating game for recreation and also to take it up as a career. y Tashi Pradhan