SIKKIM FOOTBALL ON MELTDOWN PATH

The FPAS members after speaking to media at Press Club of Sikkim. SE Pic
Wed, Sep 11, 2019

Players to boycott Santosh Trophy camp, demands SFA executives to step down

‘Two generations of footballers in Sikkim have gone by with the only achievement being ‘participating’ in national tournament and nothing beyond that’ – Former players

BIJOY GURUNG
GANGTOK:
National and State-level footballers of Sikkim on Tuesday rebelled against the Sikkim Football Association (SFA) by announcing to boycott the Santosh Trophy camp and demanding a change in the football administration to stop football in the State regressing further.
Addressing a press meet at Press Club of Sikkim here, the footballers under the banner of Football Players Association of Sikkim (FPAS) blamed the SFA for the decadence in Sikkim football due to their ‘inefficiency and negligence’ and accused the body of using the players as ‘cash cows’. They demanded the present SFA executive members to step down and give opportunities for others to stem the rot in Sikkim football.
Given the rebellious stand taken by the FPAS, Sikkim may not feature in coming Santosh Trophy senior men’s national football tournament qualifiers starting later this month. The SFA has already given the national women’s national championship 2019 a miss which started from today.
More than 120 prominent players of Sikkim playing in ISL, I-League and State leagues have supported the boycott stand of the FPAS.
Sikkim football was on a boil for past couple of weeks due to humiliating defeats in u-14 national sub-junior football tournament and absence in women’s national football championship 2019 fetching criticism from football lovers here.
The ill-timed call for the Santosh Trophy qualifiers camp triggered an angry response from the players who walked into the Press Club of Sikkim press meet saying ‘enough is enough’ against the SFA. Yesterday, the SFA had listed 41 probables from various A division clubs for the Santosh Trophy camp which was to start from today morning onwards.
ISL player and FPAS president Nirmal Chettri pointed out the ongoing Sikkim Premier League is at a crucial stage where clubs are fighting either for title or to avoid relegation. “Despite knowing this, the SFA has ordered the clubs and players to report for practice even though the league is at its peak. The clubs are spending around Rs. 2-2.5 lakh per season in A division with the hope to win the title. The notice from SFA was done at the last minute catching the clubs off guard. Since the better players have all been directed to attend the camp, the ambitions and plans of various clubs have been disrupted for the season,” he said.
Allegations of SFA failing to arrange proper camps for national tournaments at all levels poured in from the players.
“We do not know who our coach is for this Santosh Trophy. The camps have always been haphazardly arranged. Even the players do not know who are their teammates and come to know only when they are either at the railway station to catch the train for the tournament venue. Players are asked to join the team over phone calls…the SFA has been doing ‘tip tapey’ style of forming the State team on many occasions,” said the players.
Consequently, Sikkim does not fare well in national tournaments, and suffer humiliating defeats. Examples of other States were given where a camp of at least one month is arranged to prepare. Logistics and player’s comfort are also taken care of by the State associations, shared the players here. In stark contrast, the players of Sikkim are yet to get refunds for the amount of around Rs. 30,000 that they spent during the last year’s Santosh Trophy qualifiers.
Instead of taking the past incidents into account, the SFA is now threatening to ban the clubs and players if they do not comply with the orders, said the players. The FPAS warned that they will go to any level to protect the players if the SFA takes action against the players refusing to attend the Santosh Trophy camp.
The footballers also accused the SFA of organising the local leagues poorly with the State league lasting barely for a month. A standard league of at least two to three months is a must to raise the quality of Sikkimese football and also for the players to feel satisfied that their yearlong effort and hardwork has paid off, they said.
Former footballers, at the press meet, spoke about the glorious days of Sikkim football in past where there used to lengthy camps to adequately prepare for national tournaments.
“Two generations of footballers in Sikkim have gone by with the only achievement being ‘participating’ in national tournament and nothing beyond that. It is like a formality that a Sikkim team takes part in national tournaments. No improvement has taken place and it is high time that our coming footballers deserve better,” said the former footballers.
The FPAS and players asserted that Sikkim football has no chance of improvement if the present SFA executive members continue to run the administration. “We demand that the current members of SFA should step down so that a proper and democratic election can be conducted to form a new executive body. New members who have proper experience in playing and managing football should be given an opportunity to manage football in Sikkim,” they said.
The FPAS said they would be writing to the Chief Minister, Sports minister and concerned government officials regarding their grievances against the SFA and why they are boycotting the Santosh Trophy camp. They also said it was unfortunate that Sikkim is absent from the national senior women’s football championship 2019.
“Only two States are missing from the senior women’s national championship 2019 – Sikkim and Jammu & Kashmir. The absence of Jammu & Kashmir can be considered given the political situation there but what about Sikkim? This is unacceptable and great injustice to women footballers. Absence from such tournaments mean that our women footballers have no chance to get selected for the Indian national women’s team,” said the FPAS members.


Area: 7096 Sq Km
Capital:Gangtok
Altitude: 5,840 ft
Population: 6.10 Lakhs
Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 ft. to over 28,509 ft above sea level
Climate:
Summer: Max- 21°C ; Min – 13°C
Winter: Max -13°C ; Min – 0.48°C
Rainfall: 325 cm per annum
Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi