Kalimpong, Nov. 19: Fog or no fog, a galaxy of veteran footballers from the state and from neighbouring countries will be out to prove that they aren’t a bunch of old fogies when the Veteran Football Tournament kicks off at the Mela Ground here on November 29.
In all, 17 teams from different parts of Bengal, Sikkim, Manipur and neighbouring countries of Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh will take part in the meet being organised by the Kalimpong Veterans’ Club (KVC).
“We are organising this tournament in memory of Olympian Chandan Singh Rawat, who hailed from the hills. The winning team will get the trophy named after him and a cash prize of Rs 10,000. The runner-up will get a trophy and Rs 5,000,” said Dhendup Bhutia, the KVC secretary.
Traditionally, the football season is from June/July to September/October in the hills. This year though the season has extended well into the early part of the winter.
However, Kalimpong doesn’t need to be concerned about winter fog which disrupted a semifinal match of the All India Brigade of Gurkha Gold Cup in Darjeeling yesterday.
“Indeed, the weather here is suitable for football around this time. During the traditional football season, the ground becomes heavy because of rain, and consequently, physically more taxing. So, there are greater chances of players getting injured during the match. Now the pitch is nice and dry and just about perfect for the old heroes to display their skills,” said Samten Kabo, the KVC treasurer and former footballer.
Among the old heroes to be seen in action are Suren Tamang and Mahendra Subba from Darjeeling, and former Sikkim star Suresh Mukhia. Both had played for Calcutta club Aryans in the early eighties.
“Yesteryear’s national players from Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal will also play in the tournament,” said Bhutia.
The final of the knockout tournament will be played on December 5.
Apart from organising tournaments, the KVC runs the Kalimpong Football Academy to train young soccer aspirants. It offers relief to needy people in times of crisis.
“Basically, we want to contribute in our limited ways to the society through sports or other activities. We thought of organising the veterans’ tournament to promote healthy relations between players of different eras from the region,” said Bhutia.
From this year, the club has also introduced the inter-office tournament to provide recreation to overworked babus. The 12-team tournament kicked off at the Mela Ground today.
Army XI will face Calcutta-based Southern Samity in the final of the All India Brigade of Gurkha Gold Cup on November 21.
Southern Samity reached the final, beating BNR Kolkata by a solitary goal from its striker Jamir Ali Mondal in the 13th minute of play in Darjeeling on Friday.
The final will be played from 1.30, instead of 2.15 pm, and the cultural programme will start at 12.30pm.