Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Criticisms of Sikkim Football Association are unjustified: Tempo Bhutia

GANGTOK, September 14: The Sikkim Football Association (SFA) has seen bigger tournaments with fatter sponsors beat the dust, adjusted relocation to an unfeasible venue for three years, witnessed Bhaichung Bhutia exploding in the national football circuit, saluted the champions and wished gallant losers better luck next time, all these while overcoming bottlenecks during its long journey of hosting All India Governor’s Gold Cup football tournament uninterruptedly for the 31st consecutive years.

Having seen it all, it appears that there is still something that SFA cannot overcome- being picked up by certain quarters every year over a couple of ‘ceiling glass’ issues.

Exasperated with complaints, SFA president Tempo Bhutia today came out in full boots to tackle the allegations levelled on the association that has hosted the showpiece event of the Northeastern region without any major controversies or hiccups for the past three decades.

Some people say that there are no quality teams in the tournament but do they know the quality of Tata Football Academy (TFA) and Chirag United?, countered Mr. Bhutia to the one constant slur levelled on SFA.
For the uninformed, TFA has been making a habit of trashing East Bengal and other big clubs while Chirag United plays in the first division of the Indian Football League.
Defending champions Three Star, Nepal need no introduction while a full fledged Nigerian club this time is what everyone here is awaiting.
We also brought a Goan team this time keeping in view of the demands of the people, said Mr. Bhutia.
They say that spectators are dying out due to lack of quality teams. While it is true that people have come out in less numbers in the initial matches, those making such comments have themselves not seen the matches, said the SFA president.

It may be added here football lovers of Sikkim do really rouse up to the Gold Cup football fest right from the word go but gradually warm up to the matches and pack up the stadium toe to toe in the later stages of the tournament to catch the action.

Same script was repeated in this tournament with lukewarm response till the pre-quarter round completed and crowds are expected to swell up tomorrow to support TFA and on September 17, a full house is expected to watch defending champions Three Star Nepal.

The SFA president went back to history to really underline the importance of Governor’s Gold Cup and its great survival while other similar premier tournaments faded out.

One of the premier football tournaments in the country, DCM Cup was discontinued from 1998, the year SFA hosted the 20th All India Governor’s Gold Cup.

While SFA tenaciously gave continuity to the Governor’s Gold Cup despite constant upheavals in the football sector of the nation, other premier tournaments like Rover Cup, Kalinga Cup, Mittal Cup and many others could not sustain themselves when the Indian football circuit morphed itself into premier league, State leagues and preference for only few selected tournaments like IFA Shield and Durand Cup.

As invitational tournaments lost their sheen due to non participation of big clubs, SFA was also caught in the same threatening zone with big clubs Mohan Bagan and East Bengal skipping the Gold Cup due to AIFF and league entanglements.

Both Mohan Bagan and East Bengal have won the Gold Cup several times in the dusty battleground of Polo ground while leading teams from various parts of India have been participating in this tourney at various years.

Earlier, there used be at least a dozen all India level football tournaments which now have been discontinued but SFA has been successful in giving continuity to the Governor’s Gold Cup, said Mr. Bhutia. Big States with larger sponsorship have discontinued the tournaments while Sikkim being a smaller State is still attracting good teams for the Governor’s Gold Cup, he added.

All the big teams people talk about are committed to nine months of active football in the I-league and to get these teams is very difficult and expensive as these teams have to I-league, AFC and local league commitments, it was explained.

Regarding the ‘turf’ debate, the SFA president simply pointed out that FIFA has already proposed eight artificial football grounds in India and Sikkim is also included the proposed States.

Mr. Bhutia also said that it is unjustified that issue of non-football players being in SFA is always raised. It is not justified to raise such issues as administration and playing are different.

The examples of BCCI and AIFF were also pointed out.