BENGAL POLITICS IN DARJEELING: Govt Soccer Santa before talks – Gurkha (*?!!) Gold Cup to kick off in Darjeeling on Friday after 25 years – Bengal just can’t resist implying that the inhabitants from Darjeeling are foreigners in India – why ‘Gurkha’ & not Gorkha, similarly why not ‘Bongal’ for Bengal ?!! (sic*)
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY VIVEK CHHETRI
Darjeeling, Nov. 7: The All India Brigade of Gurkha Gold Cup will kick off here on Friday with the government allocating Rs 45 lakh for its revival after 25 years, a move to reach out to the hills when negotiations are on for an interim set-up for the region.
However, sports enthusiasts here have refused to read much into the government effort. They only hope the soccer tournament — one of the biggest sporting events of the hills that once drew top notch footballers from across the country — will play a pivotal role in bringing Darjeeling back on the nation’s sporting map.
“Whether there is politics involved or not, it does not matter. Sports should triumph at the end of the day and create opportunities where national events can be staged in Darjeeling like it used to be in the past,” said Zaheed Khan, a state-level volleyball player.
The political implication of the sporting event was evident almost two months ago when sports minister Kanti Ganguly, while wooing the hills, had said in Darjeeling: “Irrespective of political differences, everyone concerned is united to start the football tournament. Hill players like Ram Bahadur and Chandan Singh had created a sensation on the football grounds of Calcutta.”
For sports lovers, however, reviving the rich sporting legacy of the hill town only matters. “Two decades ago, Darjeeling used to host national-level tournaments in table tennis and badminton. Sports icons like Prakash Padukone (badminton) used to participate in the Darjeeling events,” said Dawa Lama, vice-president of the organising committee of the Gold Cup at a media conference today.
In the past two decades no major sporting event worth its name has been organised in the hills, which had relatively better sporting facilities compared to the rest of the state before Independence.
“This year, 12 teams including the Army XI, Tata Football Academy, Indian Football Association XI (Calcutta), Manipur XI, Shimal Young Boy’s Club (Delhi) and Techno Aryans will participate in the tournament that has been approved by the IFA,” said Lama.
“From next year onwards the tournament will feature in the IFA’s calendar and we can expect big names to play in Darjeeling,” added Jordan Narbu, an executive member of the organising committee.
The tournament is being held jointly by the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Sports Association and the district administration, another indication that the government is keen to make its presence felt in the hills before the political-level talks at the end of this month or early December. “The state’s youth and sports department is expected to provide us with Rs 45 lakh to host the event. We had initially asked for Rs 70 lakh,” said Lama.
Winners will take home a cheque for Rs 1 lakh while the runners-up will get a cash prize of Rs 50,000. “We are also taking care of the teams’ transportation cost, accommodation and appearance fees,” said Lama.
The organisers have put in a lot of glamour to make the tournament attractive. “The governor of Bengal has been made the chief patron of the tournament, while Shyam Thapa, Chuni Goswami, Prasun Banerjee and Bhaichung Bhutia have been made patrons,” said Lama.
The Gold Cup was instituted by the Gorkha personnel serving in the British army. “The tournament, which started in 1975 and was held till 1985 (a year before the Gorkhaland agitation started in the hills), used to be organised by the Darjeeling District Sports Association that has remained defunct for long,” said Lama.
The inaugural tournament was won by Mohun Bagan while the last trophy was lifted by East Bengal. “We managed to retrieve the original trophy which was lying in a government office here and we have sent it for repair,” said Lama.
The matches will be played at the St Joseph’s School (North Point) grounds. Tickets have been priced at Rs 100, Rs 40 and Rs 20 each. “Students can avail a 50 per cent discount,” said Lama.