Gangtok: Independence Day is an auspicious occasion for every Indian. Usually, the students of schools and colleges are seen busy practising dance, songs and plays for the big day. However, if you happen to be from Sikkim, you will see that football players, both men and women, get busy in scheduling their dates to play matches not only at the Paljor Stadium in Gangtok, but in rural areas too.
Football icon Bhaichung Bhutia agreed that Independence Day in Sikkim is huge only because of football. “I-Day is a season of football. Every village, every town you will get to see football tournaments being organised. Every single person gets engaged either to watch or play,” he said.
Likewise Eric, a football player from Ghana, said that he is invited by the local football club for the tournaments during this time. “I really enjoy coming to Sikkim and play as people here are crazy about football,” he added.
Sonam Gyaltsen, founder of Sikkim Aakraman FC, said that August is a very crucial month for the clubs as the players are given good offers by every big and small clubs.
“The task of the management becomes tough to get the players and retain them during I-Day football tournaments. For clubs like us, winning the tournament at Paljor Stadium is very important as the winner gets to participate in Governor’s Gold Cup, one of the prestigious tournaments,” he said.
Local footballer Prashant Chettri shared how hard it was for the players to manage their time during this season. “We get offers not just from the clubs but also from various tournaments organised within and outside the state. Despite being really choosy, I still played six tournaments in the state,” he added.
August is a festive month of football. As the month starts, the football festival also kicks off in all the districts. Every small and big playground gets engaged to host football tournaments with prize money ranging from a few thousands to up to Rs 2 lakh. However, the zeal and enthusiasm of both players and the organisers are high. Even the spectators get busy witnessing the matches.
More than 100 tournaments are organised every year in Sikkim where players from North Bengal region, Nepal and also Ghana are seen playing both minor and major tournaments.