SPORTS: 3 more from Sikkim to play I-League

SPORTS: 3 more from Sikkim to play I-League – Sikkim searches more Bhaichungs but Darjeeling stifled by Bengal with no searches for more Sunil Chhetris ?!!

Players selected under the Search for More Bhaichungs practise at the Paljor Stadium in Gangtok - nothing in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong, Mirik, Alipurduars or Siliguri ?!! (Photo or Picture by Telegraph)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY BIJOY GURUNG

Gangtok, June 16: Three more footballers from Sikkim, all products of Search for More Bhaichungs scheme, are set to play in the I-League for ONGC and HAL Bangalore — clubs that have qualified to the top tier of the Indian football league this year.

The qualification of the two Second Division clubs has placed midfielder Bikash Jairu and defender Robin Gurung from ONGC and Nim Tshering Lepcha of HAL Bangalore in the company of their batch-mates Sanju Pradhan and Nirmal Chettri, who are now playing for Calcutta soccer giants East Bengal.

All the five footballers are products of the scheme launched by the Sikkim government in 1999 with an aim to produce quality footballers. They along with 25 others had received training at the Sports Hostel in Namchi and later at the State Sports Academy in Gangtok.

Sanju and Nirmal were picked by Air India Mumbai in 2006. They later switched to East Bengal and have been playing the national league for the past four years. The duo are in their third year with the Calcutta club. Bikash and Robin were selected by ONGC in 2008, the same year when Nim Tshering found a place in HAL Bangalore.

“This year we will have six Sikkimese footballers (including Bhaichung) in the I-League with Robin, Bikash and Nim Tshering playing,” said East Bengal defender Sanju today.

“We got selected by Air India, worked hard, showed our skills and then got the chance (of playing in the final XI). They (the three) also need to show their game even if they get five minutes of playing time,” said Nirmal.

Robin said he and Bikash had been picked by ONGC while playing for Sikkim in the Santosh Trophy in 2008 in Jammu and Kashmir. “We are both regulars in the team,” said Robin, 20.

“It is a dream come true. It is also an opportunity to be seen on television. I can get a chance to play against Bhaichung,” said Robin. He was in praise of the Search for More Bhaichungs scheme of the government and the training received from their coaches at the hostel and the academy.

Bikash echoed his team-mate. “The football talent of Sikkim is getting exposed in the national arena, which is a healthy sign. We still have to go a long way. I feel that there will be more showcasing of football talent in the big clubs in the days to come,” he said.

Regarding future plans, Bikash said: “Every Indian footballer has a dream of playing for East Bengal once in a lifetime and I also share the same dream and want to play with my friends Sanju and Nirmal.”

State sports academy chief coach Hangu Norden Lepcha was hopeful about the three young players’ prospects.

“If they play well in the I-League, they will get a chance to be picked by other big clubs. They need to maintain discipline as they have got everything else,” said Lepcha.

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