Bhaichung shares the road ahead for USFC
GANGTOK, May 16, 2013
United Sikkim Football Club (USFC) finished last in its debut I-League season and as of now, is relegated to second division. With football prospects here also riding on the club’s fortunes, several concerns and questions remained among the fans on what lies next for USFC.
Club CEO Bhaichung Bhutia interacted with media on May 14 sharing his and USFC’s plans. Here is what he had to share with the Sikkim Football stakeholders.
USFC’s future after I-League exit
Bhaichung: We don’t know whether USFC is still in I-League or not. ONGC and Air India are out of the league after failing to meet the AFC criteria of all clubs to be private entities. Their exits will space for two more clubs. The AIFF is also taking bids for franchise teams who will be directly given I-League berths. A decision on these matters is likely to be taken in the next two weeks. USFC has a good chance of remaining in the I-League but we cannot say anything until the decision is taken. Also, United Sikkim is a private limited company with 70 percent share owned by Dubai based Fidelis World. So they have a major say. They have invested and the club belongs to them. Relegation has been a major setback for them. I feel sorry for my players. They did their best but good results evaded them. If we have to play second division, then we will play but we also need sponsors. Without sponsors, we have to play with all local players and cannot afford to recruit other players.
His future plans without USFC
Bhaichung: As far I am concerned, whatever happens, we will still remain a club whether it is USFC or United Sikkim Sporting Club. We want local players to get maximum opportunities. If USFC is not in I-League, it will be a blessing in disguise for me personally. In the past two years, it was like crazy for me as I had to continuously travel on club-related matters. I am sad that USFC could not reach the interiors of Sikkim. If USFC is not in the I-League, It will be my duty to reach the interiors of Sikkim and dedicate myself to promote and develop football in the villages. I am also undertaking a campaign to buy and distribute footballs to kids in villages and help the academies. I have decided that whoever invites me for an event, they will have to come with 50-60 footballs which would be distributed to the village kids.
On what went wrong in I-League
Bhaichung: One of the main reasons was lack of experience. Apart from Anwar Ali, none of the other players had played in I-League before. The foreign signings also did not click. Thirdly, we completely left the signing of players to the coach.
On lack of home crowd support
Bhaichung: I think they are still not used to I-League format which is a yearlong tournament. It is completely understandable. Our results also disappointed them. It also takes time for the club following to grow. It does not happen overnight.
On fund problems and government support
Bhaichung: It has been a big, big struggle on getting funds. It is very difficult to get corporate sponsorship in Sikkim. I never started USFC expecting any financial support from the government. Clubs all over the world does not do it. From Day One, I did not wanted financial support from the government but yes, if it had come, it would have been welcome.
On whether he regrets the USFC decision
Bhaichung: Not a single time, I regretted the decision to start USFC. I named the club as United Sikkim FC so that it shares and relates with the Sikkimese people. There were lot of challenges in running the club but it happens everywhere. When I see hardcore supporters of USFC, I feel that the troubles I took were worth it. When top Indian clubs from Goa and Kolkata came here to play before the Sikkimese people, it sure feels that the troubles were worth it. There are no regrets. A small State like Sikkim was playing in I-League which was an achievement. Two matches at Paljor Stadium were telecasted live across India and other countries. It never happened in the sports history of Sikkim.
On local players
Bhaichung: The relegation also affects the 14 local players we have along with the staff. They are still with USFC and some of them have done well in I-League. If they get good offers from other clubs then they can go.
On his professional career
Bhaichung: I have not taken retirement but after December, I hardly got time to train with the team as I was always travelling. I could play if I train regularly. It is just a matter of getting more regular time to train.
On his Football Academy
Bhaichung: I have applied for the land with the State government but I don’t know its status. The academy is for the betterment of the football in Sikkim. It is not for me. If 30-40 local players receive good training, they can earn a livelihood by playing professional football.
During the press conference, USFC senior manager Arjun Rai, on behalf of the club thanked all the well-wishers and supporters. “We extend our special thanks to Sports department secretary Karma P Bhutia, deputy director Thupden Rapgyal, Gangtok Municipal Corporation and Sikkim Police,” he said.
A USFC squad would be proceeding tomorrow to play two friendly matches at Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
(Courtesy: Sikkim Express)
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