Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Nirmal Chettri- Way to Go Boy!

A proud moment for the entire country a few days back when India lifted the SAFF CUP at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi. Football is a team sport so the credit for the victory should go to all the team members but I just can’t help mentioning Nirmal Chettri’s name here. This boy from the hills of Sikkim, whom I had seen for the very first time at Gangtok during the SAARC Inter Academy Football Tournament in 2005 and again in the Governor’s Gold Cup,2006 both the times playing for the Sports Academy of Sikkim has shown to all the aspiring young footballers from this part of the country that if you dream big and compensate that will hard work and discipline you can reach your target.

I have known Nirmal for quite a few years now and he has always proved to be a nice human being whenever I have got the opportunity to meet him, humble and down to earth, may be this attitude of his has helped him achieve so much at such a young age. Our last meeting was at Kalimpong in July when he had visited this place on an invitation from the Kalimpong Sports Association as the special guest for one of the matches played at the Sahid Cup. Humble person he is as soon as he reached Kalimpong he had given me a call and we met up at one of the Coffee shops. Though Nirmal doesn’t like to talk too much about football when he is away from the game, I always take the conversation towards that topic. We chatted for almost an hour and I still remember talking about his chances of making it to the India senior side. I had always believed that Nirmal could fit into the Senior team and I had told him then “Bro you can get that blue jersey very soon” to which he had just nodded with a smile. Now Nirmal is a Senior International player.

One good virtue of Nirmal as a footballer, I feel is that he can adjust in any role. He had started off as a striker when he was a kid, then moved to mid-field and finally settled as a stopper when he joined Air India, Now in the SAFF CUP he was used as a full back. This role was not new to him as he had already played many games for East Bengal in that position. A lesson for every young footballer that you should be comfortable playing in at least one other positions along with your preferred role.

Now Nirmal has started another phase of his career as an international footballer and I am sure he’ll keep on playing well and win even more trophies with the National team. It has been an absolute pleasure to watch him play till now. From his Academy days (when I had not even know his name and had remarked to a friend “That Stopper Guy is a wonderful player”) later I had found out it was Nirmal Chettri. Now I know a lot more about Nirmal and even the whole country knows. This Boy from Melli a small town of Sikkim bordering West Bengal has indeed announced his arrival in International football and I wish him all the very best for this new journey of his. Go on Nirmal there is more for you to achieve.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Heros Remembered

Kalimpong has found a fitting way to pay tribute to its sporting heroes of yesteryears,mostly Footballers by organising a football tournament in memory of Late Pem Dorjee and Late B B Pradhan both great players of their respective times.

Pem Dorjee (Nilu) as we all know was a talented stopper of his times and went on to Captian the National Team.Born at Gangtok in the year 1958,he did his schooling from Kalimpong.He played for almost all the big clubs of the country and earned respect and love of the people where-ever he went and played.He had started his footballing journey in Kalimpong playing for his school team Scottish Universities’ Mission Institution (SUMI) and later on he moved to Sikkim and settled there.Pem Dorjee passed away in the year 2001 after prolonged fight with Cancer.B B Pradhan was also a wonderful player of his times and started his career with Kumudini Homes School and went on to play for the Bhutan National team.

Kalimpong Veterans Club is Organising this “Veterans Football Tournament 2011” where 19 Veterans team from across the region including the neighbouring countries of Nepal,Bhutan and Bangalesh is taking part.Eligibility for players to participate in this tournament is that they should be above 45 years of age.

The tournament kicked-off yesterday at Mela Ground, with the first two games taking place.In the first match Darjeeling defeated Namchi in the penalties whereas in the second games Zongri (Sikkim) defeated Jalpaiguri (which had 2 former East Bengal players) 3-2.

The Chief Guest for the opening function was the former Minister of Sikkim Mr Thukchuk Lachungpa who spent is student days in Kalimpong attending Scottish Universities’ Mission Institution.
The tag line for the tournament reads “Heros of Kalimpong,lest we forget” and I stand by that as we can never forget this people who have given so much to Kalimpong by there sporting acheivements and made Kalimpong known to other people across the country.I saw photographs of so many great players of yesteryears at Mela Ground and I was touched.They were the people whos foot-steps the present day footballers of Kalimpong following.Though many us till today were not aware of them but through this tournament we have became aware how rich our town was with regards to the tradition of football and how many talented players Kalimpong had produced in its more than 100 years of Football History.I can’t help saluting all those players whos memories lives on till today.

Information Courtesy- Gyaltshen Dorjee Moktan and the Kalimpong Veterans Club

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Thank You Bhaichung!

A few days back when I was flipping through the channels. I happened to catch a sound bite of Bhaichung Bhutia which I thought was another promotional he was attending but a few seconds later the anchor confirmed that Bhaichung has decided to quit International football. Initially I could not believe it but as I looked back into his career for the last year or so I could find some logic in his decision. Although as his fan I had wanted him to play till eternity but Bhaichung is also human and the nagging injury got the better of him and we have to respect his decision. He has created a big void which will be difficult to fill.

Bhaichung Bhutia as we all know was born in a small hamlet called Tinkitam in South Sikkim, this place does not even have a decent playing field. After spending his initial years in Tinkitam Bhaichung joined a boarding school called St Xaviers in Pakyoung where his football career started taking shape and he was selected by the Sports Authority of India and admitted in Tashi Namgyal Academy a premier Public School of Sikkim, I am also an alumni of this school and it was here where I saw Bhaichung Bhutia for the first time way back in the year 1991 when I was in standard one. It’s been so many years now and my memory is vague but I remember Bhaichung playing for the school team. Then in 1992 Tashi Namgyal Academy played in the Subrato Cup and reached the quarter finals and Bhaichung bagged the Best player of the tournament award which showed he was destined for greatness. He was called for the India under-16 camp got selected but had to withdraw due to some personal reasons. This was a setback but Bhaichung came back stronger and gave a wonderful performance in the All India Governor’s Gold Cup in the same year and was spotted by Bhaskar Ganguly who took him to East Bengal and the rest they say is history.

He spent sixteen years with the National team, winning the AFC Challenge Cup 2008 which gave India a chance to play in the Asian Cup 2011.On the personal front Bhaichung has 109 appearances for India scoring 43 goals. He also helped India win the Nehru Cup in 2007 and 09 and has four SAAF Cup winners medal in his trophy cabinet.

Well I wonder what else to write as so much has already been written and said about this footballing legend of our times who has singlehandedly given Indian football a new direction and hope. Now Bhaichung plans to dedicate himself fully towards his own creation, United Sikkim Football Club and also keep playing for the team. Bhaichung has truly been an inspiration to a generation of footballers and I am sure he will keep doing so in future as well. Many are saying that this is an end but I say this is a beginning of another chapter in Bhaichung Bhutia’s amazing life!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Future Star!

         Asif in the middle,second row (Orange Jersey) representing Apex FC,Kalimpong

It’s been a very longtime since Kalimpong gave birth to a footballer of national repute. After Pem Dorjee and Jerry Basi the supply chain of players seemed to have dried up. There can be many factors for this, let me not get into that but focus on the positive side of Kalimpong football. The beautiful game thrives in this beautiful hill town and over two months of my stay here I have seen many talented young players. One of those is certain Asif Ahmed Ansari, a young and very talented goalkeeper. Asif was born and brought up in Kalimpong and used to love playing cricket when he was a kid. But one day at Mela ground this young boy suddenly turned into a footballer. Asif was playing cricket at the ground just beside a group of school level footballers. The coach was giving instructions to his goalkeepers about diving and at the very moment Asif who was fielding at point took a stunning catch diving full length towards his right. The football coach saw that and called him, Asif went towards him hesitantly the coach instructed him to stand in front of his goalkeepers took a ball and asked Asif to dive and catch it. Asif did what he was told to do and coach patted his back and told his goalkeepers that what they just saw was the perfect way to dive.

After that incident Asif slowly started lining towards football. Got into the school team and Asif the cricketer changed into Asif the footballer, He was in standard seven back then. Though he started playing football bit late, Asif proved to be a quick learner and adjusted to football in no time. Asif liked cricket but football was his calling and later on in life he found out that his grandfather, Badruddin Ahmed was also a very well known goalkeeper of the 1950’s and 60’s,who had even represented the Bhutan National team.He is proud of his Grandfather and is happy today that he choose football over cricket.

When Asif was in standard ten he got a wonderful opportunity as he was selected to attend Mohun Bagan Sail football Academy at Durgapur, but due to the board examination he had to return back to Kalimpong just in three months. Asif was disappointed but learned a lot during that period and also got the compliment which he remembers till date. The head coach at the Academy Jahar Das had told him that if he keeps working hard he will play for the national team one day. Those words still inspires Asif.

Asif also represented his school team, Scottish Universities Mission Institution (SUMI) in the BC Roy Trophy, premier School level tournament of West Bengal; winners of this tournament get direct entry into the Subrato Cup. For three consecutive years Asif went for the BC Roy trophy and in the last year he captained the team.

In the year 2007-08 Asif won consecutive player of the tournament award in the Inter School football tournament. After passing out of school in 2009 Asif started playing for the Kalimpong Football Academy team and his talent was quickly noticed by the Denzong Boys FC. He played for the team in the ONGC Cup which was held in Tripura and after three months Asif got an opportunity to play in the second division I-League qualifiers. He featured in the all the matches and gave some good performances but none of the Big Clubs noticed him so he had to return back to his home town but with age on his side Asif can go a long way.

After coming back to Kalimpong he joined a local team called Apex Football Club this year where most of his team-mates are his good friends. He has helped the team qualify for the finals of the Kalimpong league which is due to take place in a few days time and the 2nd of August Asif by his own admission lived the most memorable day of this life as Apex FC won the prestigious Sahid Cup Football tournament. This was for the first time in the history of this tournament a home side had ended up as winners. Asif had to take two trophies home as he was also awarded the player of the tournament award. He truly deserved that because he had made some outrageous saves in the three matches that the team played.

Asif harbors a dream of playing for one the Big Clubs of the country one day. At the same time he laments that there is no support system for the players in this part of the world but he remains positive and keeps working hard. Asif knows the road ahead is tough and there will be challenges but he believes in trying. So will Asif be able to fill that vacuum of Kalimpong not producing players of national repute? I say yes. Rest the time will tell.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

GVS Football Academy-Future Hope

Sikkim State League(S-League 2nd Division) is on at the moment in Paljor Stadium, Gangtok with twelve teams participating from across the state and the team which caught my fancy is the Gram Vikash Sangathan Football Academy. Gram Vikash Sangathan is actually an NGO based at Central Pendam which falls in East District which floated its own Academy in 2008 as an extension to the host of other social welfare activities it conducts.

The President of this organization is Gangaram Guragai and the manager is Karma Jigmee Bhutia who informed that the GVS football Academy was started in February 2008.It was an initiative by a group of like minded individuals and today they have 25 students selected from the rural areas of Sikkim during the winter camps they used to organize every year. All these 25 boys study at Cental Pendam Senior Secondary School and practice at the school ground which has been provided to GVSFA by the School management. Their intention when they started off was  just to attract kids towards football but due to the positive response from the kids, parents and GVS they decided to go ahead with the Academy.

The GVSFA’s technical team is headed by two coaches Michael Lepcha and Bharat Tamang,both of this gentleman are Santosh Trophy players and have deep passion towards the game. These boys train under the watchful eyes of the two coaches every morning and afternoon. The Academy also provides these boys with decent accommodation and food. The Cental Pendam Senior Secondary school has been very supportive towards GVSFA by providing them the school ground and the recruits also are given direct admission into the school.

After three winters of coaching these boys have shaped up well and are currently participating in the S-League second division which shows that the efforts of collective labor is bearing fruits slowly. The GVSFA boys had a bright start in the second division when they won the 3-0 against Lower Arithang FC but lost 1-4 against physically superior FC United FC Jorethang. But GVSFA is still a work in progress and in future we can surely expect these boys to rise up and play for the big clubs of the country.
The coach Michael Lepcha explained the situation saying that these boys are still young and lack match experience and are under 16 years of age. They have not played many competitive matches and now they are playing in the second division State League the coach further added that the boys will learn and grow after every match.

Michael Lepcha is a Sports teacher in Sajong Junior High School, 1 km away from Central Pendam and holds a Diploma in Football Coaching from SAI Centre in Kolkata. He is a very well known name in the Sikkim football circles and was a wonderful Right Winger in his playing days. He got associated with GVSFA this year after joining GVSFA and is determined to turn these boys into good footballers in future.

The GVSFA plans to give all their support to these boys and also provide them with a launch pad through which they can go on and play for the big clubs. These boys have been divided into two age groups U-14 and U-16 to give them proper attention during training. The later group of boys is currently representing GVSFA in the second division S-League. The parents of these students have also been very cooperative and helpful as they pay Rs 1100 per month as a fee without any complains and the rest of the expense is taken care by the GVSFA which comes to around Rs 2200 per player.

Gram Vikash Sangathan Football Academy has given a new hope to football in Sikkim and it’s a joy to watch these boys taking on stronger opponents during there matches.I am sure many boys from this Academy will go on and play for the big Clubs of the country in Future and many more Bhaichungs,Sanjus and Nirmals will be produced from the state of Sikkim.Salute to all the individuals involved with this wonderful project.

Information Courtesy- Sikkim Express 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

SUMI 125th Year Anniversary Football Tournament Kicks-off

A football tournament organized by the Scottish Universities’ Mission Institution (SUMI) based in Kalimpong to mark their 125th year kicked off at Mela Ground (Kalimpong’s Public ground) from yesterday. Officially the tournament is called “125th Anniversary Invitational Prize-Money Inter-School Football Tournament-2011”.
This School has a rich tradition in football having produced so many talented players in its 125 year old history. SUMI has also represented West Bengal in the Subroto Cup quite a few times and many of its players have gone on and played for the well known clubs of the country.Pem Dorjee is one such example who even captained the National team.
The tournament which carries an impressive prize-money of Rs 30000 for the winners and Rs 20000 for the runners-up will be contested by fourteen schools from Kalimpong and the surrounding areas. The Finals is slated to take place on the 9th of July.
The first match was played yesterday between the host SUMI and Saptashree School in front of an impressive turnout, mostly the students of SUMI. The match was a one-sided affair as SUMI won easily with the final score reading 7-1.
This tournament has set a benchmark for other school level tournaments to emulate. The opening match showed how well it has been organized with even the Local cable channel airing the match live and an impressive post match presentation, though this was inspired by cricket. No doubt this tournament will be a grand success and also the success story of SUMI will continue for the years to come. 

Team List

Judhabir High School (Gorubathan)
Kumudini Homes (Kalimpong)
St Augustine School (Kalimpong)
SUMI (B) (Kalimpong)
RKSP (Darjeeling)
St Xaviers (Pakyoung)
MNS High School (Jalpaiguri)
St Peter’s School (Siliguri)
Dr Graham’s Homes (Kalimpong)
West Point School (Darjeeling)
St George High School (Pedong)
Rockvale Academy (Kalimpong)
SUMI (A)  (Kalimpong)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Nirmal Chettri Conducts a Coaching Camp

Nirmal Chettri, East Bengal star defender and India Under-23 International is back home in Sikkim these days on a vacation after a grueling season, But you can never keep Nirmal away from football for long as he recently conducted a Football Awareness Camp for the junior players of his home town Melli in South Sikkim.

The Camp lasted for four days from 22nd to the 25th of June and was attended by nearly thirty players from Melli and the surrounding areas. Some senior players of Sikkim also helped Nirmal in this noble effort to give direction to the young players. The camp had morning and evening sessions.

Nirmal expressed happiness with regards to the camp as he saw some very excited kids who carried their own balls to attend the camp though Nirmal had arranged for the balls himself. He also admitted that he is not a trained coach but he shared his experience as a professional footballer with them.

Nirmal wants to make this Camp an annual affair as he feels that the players should be trained in a proper way from a young age which will help them grow into a technically sound footballers in future.  He expressed hope that from next year more people will come in and help him in this endeavor.

This kind of projects should be appreciated and applauded by all and it’s so heartening to note that Nirmal has realized at such a young age that he has to give back to the kids what he has learned as a Professional footballer for more than four years.

Nirmal like any other player gets a one month break in a year and nobody would have said anything if he had taken a complete break from football but he stood up and conducted this camp which proves that he is of a different breed and wants to help the upcoming players and inspire them to follow his foot-steps.

Meanwhile United Kurseong Football Club has decided to felicitate Nirmal Chettri and Sanju Pradhan for their achievements during the Club’s Patrons meeting on the 10th of July. The Club’s Working President, Dinker Chettri informed.