FOOTBALL WATCH: Gold Cup kicks off today – Three foreign & two I-league clubs in tourney – the proud legacy of Darjeeling now shifted to Sikkim ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Gangtok, Oct. 20: Two I-League and three foreign clubs are among 14 teams that are participating in the All India Governor’s Gold Cup Football Tournament beginning here tomorrow.
the Governor’s Gold Cup is the only football tournament in the country which is being conducted uninterruptedly for the last 31 years.
Besides the two I-League teams ONGC Mumbai and Pune FC, Lajong FC (Shillong) and Mohammedan Sporting Club (Calcutta), which had featured in the premier league of the country earlier, will play the tournament in the Sikkim capital. Competing against them are defending champions BNR (Calcutta), Techno Aryan XI, Bengal Mumbai FC and former champions Punjab Police.
The foreign challenge comes from Bhutan XI and two Nepal teams — Manang Mashangdi and Three Star, another former champions of the Gold Cup.
Three local clubs have also been given the opportunity to feature in the tournament. They are Camelia United Sikkim Sporting Club, Denzong Boyz and Sikkim Police. The latter had won the state-level Independence Day football tournament, ensuring its entry in the Gold Cup.
General secretary of the Sikkim Football Association that organises the tournament Menla Ethanpa said Denzong Boyz had been given a berth in the championship as the club had played the I-League in the second division last season. Camelia United has also applied to play in the same category of the League, he said.
Indian soccer captain Bhaichung Bhutia is the chief patron of Camelia. The club will face Bhutan XI in the inaugural match at Paljor Stadium tomorrow.
Bhutan had skipped the Gold Cup last year. This time, the country has come with a vigorous team under a Japanese coach, said Ethanpa.
United Sikkim Sporting Club manager Arjun Rai said his team had prepared well for the tournament. “We had a good training week. We are giving preference to local players and promoting them,” he said. The club has taken two Nigerians for the tournament.
On tomorrow’s match, Rai said he was expecting a good fight from Bhutan. The team coming from the neighbouring country will be its national team and will have good selected players, he added.
The winners of tomorrow’s match will face Manang Mashangdi from Nepal on October 23 in a pre-quarterfinal match. The other Nepal club, Three Star, has been given a pre-quarterfinal berth and will take on Pune FC on October 25. Teams from Nepal are widely popular here and attract huge crowds.
Lajong FC has also been given a pre-quarterfinal berth and on October 26 it will lock horns with the winners of the match between Sikkim Police and Denzong Boyz.
Defending champions BNR Calcutta, Mohammedan Sporting Club, Techno Aryan XI and Bengal Mumbai FC have been given straight quarterfinal slots as the SFA considers them to be the higher ranking clubs among the other participants.
Finals will be played on November 2.
“We are expecting tough contest during the tournament as the teams are evenly poised,” said the SFA general secretary.