Thursday, October 06, 2011

United Sikkim Players reach Delhi for Durand Cup

Gangtok, Oct. 5: A 20-member squad of United Sikkim football club with co-owner Bhaichung Bhutia reached New Delhi yesterday for the Durand Cup, the quake deterring little the players who were determined to fight the panic attacks that followed. The team had been in Siliguri from September 24 to practise at the Kanchenjungha Stadium as the quake had hampered their training in Gangtok. The team could undergo only light training at Gangtok’s Paljor stadium for three days from September 21. “The team is ready for the Durand Cup. All the boys are fit and raring to go after an eight-day training camp in Siliguri. Our first aim is to qualify for the semi-finals,” said chief coach H. Stanly Rozario over the phone from New Delhi. He added that although the team’s preparations for the tourney had been hampered because of the earthquake, the squad is now ready. United Sikkim used to practice daily at the Paljor Stadium in Gangtok. But the training had to be stopped for six days after the earthquake that killed 60 people in Sikkim and caused widespread damage. “The preparations were a bit affected and the boys were scared. They could not sleep properly for the first few days (after the quake). Every time an aftershock came, they used to run outside their flats,” said Rozario. The club office at Baluwakhani in Sikkim suffered severe damage when the building in which it is located collapsed on September 23 after an adjacent structure tilted on it. Several trophies, cups, computers, kits and other equipment were buried under the collapsed building. On September 24, members of the main squad of United Sikkim travelled to Siliguri for practice sessions at the Khanchenjungha Stadium. The club also played three friendly matches during the camp. United Sikkim had been placed in a quarterfinal group with Indian Air Force and Shillong Lajong. Only one team from the group will qualify for the semi-finals. “Both our opponents are strong teams. The IAF gave a tough fight to Lajong yesterday before losing 1-2. We have to win against IAF and then play the deciding match against Lajong,” Rozario said. The club will play against IAF on Friday and Lajong on October 9. “Our boys have started improving their scoring rate and they had a good outing in Siliguri against the lower sides. We are expecting more (from them) in the Durand Cup,” said Rozario. The finals of the Durand Cup will be on October 15. Senior manager Arjun Rai said the Siliguri camp has prepared the players for the Durand Cup. “The warm weather of Siliguri has acclimatised the players for a similar weather in New Delhi,” he said. Rai added that Renedy Singh, who has been playing as a substitute till now because of his knee injury, will be available for a full match in the championship. “Renedy has played a full match in a friendly game at Nagaland and he is fit,”said Rozario. Bhaichung, who has also not played full matches till now because of a calf injury, played a full game at the exhibition match. “Although he has not recovered fully, we want him to play for at least for some time, especially during the final 15-20 minutes of the matches in Durand Cup. His presence will be a huge boost for our team,” said Rai. With Nim Tshering Lepcha out of the team for a couple of months because of a knee injury, United Sikkim’s Namibian recruit Quinton Jacobs has been handed over the captaincy since September. Apart from Bhaichung and Renedy, the other players to watch out for are Jacobs, two Nigerian strikers Babatunde Oladele and Daniel Bidemi, national team striker Sushil Kumar Singh and defender Gobind Singh.

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