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Sikkim Premier Division League 2019: Update

Paljor Stadium, Gangtok. The venue for the Sikkim Premier Division League.
Photo Courtesy: wikipedia.org

The Paljor Stadium wore a deserted look following a boycott by six clubs of the Sikkim Premier Division League.

The Football Players Association of Sikkim (FCAS), led by FC Goa defender, Nirmal Chettri, decided to boycott the training session of the forthcoming Santosh Trophy till the authorities concerned changed the members of the SFA.

A few days later six private clubs took a decision to withdraw their participation from the Sikkim Premier Division League. 

The final round of the league was scheduled to be held between September 16th and 19th.

The week that shook Sikkim football: A timeline

September 9, 2019 

The players shortlisted by Sikkim Football Association [SFA] announced that they would boycott the training camp for the upcoming Santosh Trophy 2019-20. The players expressed their dissatisfaction about the way the SFA had shortlisted 41 players for the camp and had provided the notice at the last possible hour, despite the ongoing Sikkim Premier Division League.

The players also pointed out the poor preparation the players have had to endure in the past, including footing the bills themselves.  

September 10, 2019

The match between Sikkim Aakraman FC and Sikkim Police end with a 1-1 scoreline.  After the match, the staff and players of Sikkim Aakraman FC allegedly manhandled the referee over the decisions made in the match.

September 11, 2019

Sikkim Football Association imposes a one-year ban on Sikkim Aakraman FC along with a fine of Rs 30,000. The Sikkim Aakraman FC coach,Shisil Karthak, and three players, Kintup Lachungpa, Don Tshering Lepcha and Sonam Gyaltsen were also handed a ban for a period of one year. 

Sikkim Himalayan SC beat Kumar Sporting FC 2-1 in round seven of the league. 

September 12, 2019

Sikkim Aakraman FC condemns the disciplinary action. The club also alleges that the SFA is flexing its muscles against the club for taking a stand with the Football Players Association of Sikkim.

Boys Club, Unicorn Football Club, Sikkim Himalayan Sporting Club, United Sikkim Football Club, and Kumar Sporting Football Club stand in solidarity with Sikkim Aakraman FC and announce a boycott of the ongoing Sikkim Premier Division League. 

Meanwhile, the Sikkim Football Association’s Referee Board condemning the incident and demanded that the Sikkim Aakraman FC “should first accept their mistake and apologize (to the referee) in public”. 

September 13, 2019

The remainder of the fixtures of round seven of the league were abandoned. Sikkim Police was awarded three points and three goals as Unicorn FC players did not turn up. 

September 16, 2019

The deadlock continues and final round of the Sikkim Premier Division League is a no-go. 

Old issues rear its ugly head

The dissatisfaction between the players and the SFA is deep-rooted. The Football Club Association of Sikkim (FCAS) rallied against the SFA in 2016, calling for a change in leadership and better facilities for the players. Indian international, Nirmal Chettri, supported the move by the FCAS.

Fast forward to 2019, the SFA released the fixture list for the Premier Division League on August 16th – two days before the start of the league. The league originally scheduled to be held between August 18 and September 5, where the teams play seven matches each and the players were expected to play a match every 2-3 days.

The short recovery period was met with protests from the players. The clubs had participated in in the annual Independence Day Cup where the finals were held on August 16th.

After the pushback, the fixtures were rescheduled to start on August 24th. The players were able to get a minimum of three days for recovery between matches and the issues appeared to have been resolved.  

A protest march held against the SFA on the streets of Gangtok (June 2016). Photo Courtesy: Save Sikkim Football – FB Page

Less than a month later, the SFA was at it again and this time the football players of Sikkim stood their ground. Nirmal Chettri, now the captain of the Sikkim football team is also the president of the Football Players Association of Sikkim.

The players association members also claimed that some of the prominent players from Sikkim playing in ISL and I-League like Sanju Pradhan, Bikash Jairu, Robin Gurung, and Kunzang Lepcha are supporting their move. 

While the rest of Sikkim is celebrating Pang Lhabsol, a festival that commemorates the consecration of Mount Kanchenjunga as the guardian deity of Sikkim, the standoff between the players and the authorities has paralyzed the game. 

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