FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY VIVEK CHHETRI
Darjeeling, April 28: In the late 1950s, when Darjeeling had a population of 60,000, it boasted of 18 lawn tennis courts, a nine-hole golf course, a mini racecourse, along with more than a dozen badminton and table tennis facilities.
Today, when the population has tripled, there is neither a golf course nor a horse course. The town has only four lawn tennis courts to show off and two of them belong to educational institutions.
Hayden Hall and the Darjeeling Gymkhana Club are the only places where few people can play badminton. There is hardly any place to play table tennis.
In the past, international players like Prakash Padukone — the first Indian to win the All England Badminton Championship — had visited Darjeeling to play at the Nripendra Narayan Bengali Hindu Public Hall. National football teams like East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and clubs from Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan used to regularly participate in hill tournaments.
“Records show that in 1926, the Gymkhana Club had 16 lawn tennis courts,” said Manoj Brahmin, the assistant secretary of the club.
Roshankant Ghisingh, a resident of Darjeeling who had represented Delhi in the national table tennis tournament in 1989, said: “During our days, we could play table tennis at District Cultural Institute, Buddha Singh Sporting Club, Station Club, Hayden Hall, Nripendra hall and Gymkhana Club. After football, the most popular sport in the hills was table tennis,” he said.
In the late 1970s, the Gymkhana Club had hosted the junior nationals in table tennis.
“If we talk about football, the then Darjeeling team (in the late 1970s) could beat heavyweights like Mahindra and Mahindra. We used to be hired to play for teams in Bhutan. In 1982, we were paid Rs 5,000 for a single match in Bhutan. The standards have gone down to such an extent that Darjeeling teams now have to hire players from outside the region,” said Naresh Nath Pradhan, an ex-player.
The violent Gorkhaland agitation that started in 1986 and the general apathy of the local people have led to a complete death of the sports culture in Darjeeling.
The bungalow at the nine-hole golf course was burnt down during the agitation. The last contest at the Lebong racecourse was on October 31, 1984. The Brigade of Gurkhas Gold Cup has become erratic and failed to attract national teams after the agitation.
The place where the golf course was situated has been bulldozed, as the DGHC wanted to set up a helipad. Following concerns from environment organisations, the plan was shelved but the damage has been permanently done.
During the agitation, paramilitary forces were stationed at the Gymkhana Club and the Nripendra hall.
“Wherever we go, many old timers still recount the rich sporting legacy of the town. Players from the hills have better physique but they have not been able to shine because of lack of sporting facilities,” said Ghisingh.
But at a time when everything seems to be lost, the Gymkhana Club has provided a silver lining.
“We have to revive our lost glory. We have spruced up our tennis court. A tennis tournament will be organised and players from Bhutan, Nepal, Delhi, Bangalore and other parts of the country will be participating in it,” said Madan Subba, the finance co-ordinator of the Gymkhana Club. The tournament to mark the centenary celebrations of the club will start on April 30.
“We have also submitted a proposal to the state government to set up a mini sporting complex at the club at an estimated cost of Rs 90 lakh,” said Subba.
“If the project is sanctioned, we will open the facilities for the public at a very nominal rate,” he added.
The little sport facilities left in the hills are now with the elite educational institutions, but they are out of bounds for the common man. “Many talents are disappearing for no fault of theirs,” said Ghisingh.
Took to football to get admission into good college: Chhetri
FROM PRESS TRUST OF INDIA
April 28, 2010: Only the third Indian footballer to play outside the country, Sunil Chhetri said he took to football only to get entry into a good college and never thought of earning a livelihood out of the game.
“I never knew I could make a profession out of football.
I never thought I could make a career out of it. The main motive for me was to get a certificate that could get me into a good university. That was my whole motive. That I could get decent marks in my exams and have the national certificate to get into some good colleges,” said Chhetri who became the first Indian to join a Major League Soccer (MLS) side when he signed for Kansas City Wizards last month.
“When I played a youth tournament, I was 16. I came back and Mohun Bagan, one of the major clubs in our country, saw me and signed me. I never knew how much you can earn and what kind of career you can have from soccer. Once I joined Mohun Bagan, I never looked back,” he told the official MLS website.
Chhetri, the only third Indian after Mohammad Salim and Bhaichung Bhutia to play professional football outside the country, is yet to play in the MLS but has made his KC Wizards debut in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup against the Colorado Rapids.
He hoped his joining KC Wizards would pave the way for other Indians to play abroad.
“I think if not MLS and if not Europe, there are a lot of places that players can go and perform. They can still go to Australia, a place like Qatar or Japan where they have great facilities. For football to prosper, the infrastructure is not there (in India). They can at least see how far they can go and where they stand with proper facilities. I hope me coming to MLS is going to pave way for a lot of players to go abroad.
“There is a lot of talent in our country. But the right nourishment at the right age is what we lack in our country.
The kind of infrastructure, I can really say it’s poor. I don’t think there is any scarcity of talent. But we lack the infrastructure and facilities that players need to develop.”
Talking about his earlier trials at Coventry City and Queens Park Rangers, both English Championship sides, Chhetri said, “I was called by Coventry in January 2007, but my club East Bengal didn’t release me. They released me on 28th, and 31st was the transfer deadline in England. I was there for three days but things didn’t work out.”
“Then I had something with QPR. Everything was done. We signed the deal. But the FA didn’t allow me because my country didn’t qualify in the first 70 of the FIFA rankings. In the Championship in England, there is a rule that your country has to be 70 or better in the rankings,” said the Delhi lad.
Asked about differences between MLS and the I-League, Chhetri said, “There is more pace here (in MLS). The speed of the game is much faster than what we have in our country. It’s much more physical than what we have. I think those two departments are the things that are very different from our country and MLS.”
Football ran in Chhetri’s blood as both his parents played the game, his mother a Nepali international.
“My mother and father were both natural soccer players. I didn’t have to work hard (to have the knowledge of football).
I think I already had that in me. My mother was playing for Nepal in her very early years, but then she got married and she had to quit. My mother and her twin sister used to play for Nepal,” he said.
Chhetri said adapting to American climate was a problem for him when he landed in the United States but he had adjusted now.
“I think initially when I came, it was difficult because of the 12-hour gap and the kind of climate because it was quite cold when I came here. Now it’s quite a bit warmer,” he said.
“The only thing for me now is to settle down, do my best in the training and try to improve. I need to catch up on some things. I need to understand players, which is very important, and how exactly they play and their mentality. Its going to take time.
“My teammates have been very kind to me. The coaches have all been very kind, and I think there is a healthy atmosphere to learn. Whatever happens in the future, I am just going to enjoy my time here.”
BOXING: Thapa leads charge, four boxers advance
From Yahoo News
Thu, Apr 29 04:44 AM
Indian boxers Shiva Thapa (54kg) and J Bhaskar (51kg) kept the Indian flag high as they registered contrasting wins to advance into the pre-quarterfinals of the World Youth Championship being held in Baku, Azerbaijan on Wednesday.
Playing an attacking game, Shiva ended the challenge of England’s Qais Dad Ashfaq with a 4-1 win while Bhaskar out-punched Iran’s Armin Amjadian 12-4 to enter the pre-quarterfinals.
Both the boxers are just two wins away from not only securing a medal but also booking a berth in the World Youth Olympic Games in Singapore to be held in August-September. Earlier on Tuesday night, Asian youth champion Naveen Kumar outclassed Serbia’s Boris Skapik.
Naveen will take on local favourite Vatan Huseynli on Thursday. However, it was the end of the championship for Asian youth silver medalist Devendro Singh Laishram who suffered a stunning 4-8 defeat against Naoya Ique of Japan in the light fly weight (48kg) in the second round of the championship.
Devendro, who was the first boxer to take the ring for India on Wednesday, was tied 1-1 with his rival in the first round but Ique dominated the next two rounds to notch up a comfortable victory.
In the second bout, Bhaskar dominated the proceedings right from the start of the bout and took a 6-1 lead in the opening round of the championship. He widened the gap in the next two rounds.
After leading by 9-2 at the end of first two rounds, Bhaskar added three more points to his tally in the final round to seal the bout in his favour. Bhaskar will now face Algeria’s Reda Benbaziz in the third round, who defeated Czech Dusan Chromy in his second-round bout. Shiva’s bout was a close affair in the beginning.
The Assamese (Gorkha) teen was locked 1-1 with Ashfaq in the first three minutes but that was to be the only time he allowed his rival to connect a scoring punch. The counter-puncher, who got a bye in the first round, made it 3-1 in the second round before closing it with just one point in the last three minutes.
Shiva, India’s first gold medallist at the prestigious Hyder Aliyev Cup for juniors, will now face Swede Rejen Raza Abdulrahman. In another bout, India’s Vikas Krishan thrashed Slovakia’s Rajcsanyi Patrik 7-0 in 60kg category.