Saturday, November 8, 2014

Pendam powers football from rural Sikkim

The Gram Vikas Sangathan of Central Pendam has been running the Pendam Football Academy for the past six years. The academy is now on the verge of exploding on to the soccer scene in the region
Football has always enjoyed a passionate following in Sikkim. While this passion has rarely enjoyed the indulgence of professional grooming, whenever young footballers here received proper coaching, they excelled in the sport and impressed fans everywhere. Access to organised training and professional coaching was rare in the past; fortunately however, in the recent years, a good number of football academies have come up not just in Gangtok but across the State and these dedicated units have been regularly churning out impressively well-rounded talent. This clutch of football academies has been doing an appreciable job by refining raw talent into tough and skilful footballers, and no list of consistently impressive football academies will be complete without a prominent account of the Pendam Football Academy.
The academy has achieved much which commands admiration and even the current month of November 2014 is significant for Pendam FA because it has now been promoted to the Sikkim Premier Division S-League 2015. Pendam FA topped the second division tournament recently, and after several instances of having prepared dazzling individual players, has also now achieved the feat of having put together a winning team.
Pendam FA, based in Central Pendam in East Sikkim, was started in 2008 and is managed by a Central Pendam based organisation, Gram Vikash Sangathan.
The academy’s birth is very interesting and celebrates the success of grassroots involvement. The idea to start the academy came at a winter coaching camp organised in end-2007 by Gram Vikash Sangathan to engage the village youth in sports instead of abandoning them with too much idle time. The residential football camp was a first for Central Pendam and received a very enthusiastic response with around 80 boys enrolled from different parts of the State.
The successful completion of the coaching camp that year fetched high praise for GVS not only for its youth-oriented initiative, but also the professional manner in which the boys were trained. Parents and wards alike were all praises for GVS. The applause motivated the GVS to move a step ahead and start a football academy. Without wasting any time, GVS started the academy in February 2008 itself. 24 talented U-14 footballers, shortlisted from the 80 who attended the coaching camp were offered berths in the academy.
Pendam FA now has 30 footballers in its rools.
The academy has residential facilities for these boys at the Central Pendam Senior Secondary School where these footballers are also enrolled.
The club has AFC C-Licensed coach, Bharat Tamang as the head coach. At present, the footballers in training also have the talented and experienced Michael Lepcha, who also recently received his AFC C License, looking over them.
“Pendam Football Academy has aimed to promote rural football and search out more raw talent from the unreached rural parts of the state,” explains PFA in-charge, Karma Zigmee Bhutia.
He adds that despite of many constraints and challenges since its formation, GVS has managed to stay the course on its commitment to rural footballers.
“The academy has not only been able to discover and groom talent, but has also been very successful in motivating local people towards healthier lifestyles and patronising sports,” Mr Bhutia shares. In this regard, he points out that since GVS started the academy, local youth [not with the academy] have also started practising on the same ground every day. “Nowadays, the ground is always seen busy and packed and our coaches provide training to everyone who is interested,” he adds.
Mr Bhutia stated that PFA is fast becoming a nervecentre for football in the area. “The people of the area have appreciated the efforts of the GVS and have also come forward in supporting the academy morally and some are also helping us financially from time to time in our initiatives,” he shares.
GVS general secretary, LD Dulal, mentions that the success of the PFA has been encouraging the younger generation to live healthier and more productive lives. “Of late, all young people in the area are engaged in healthy sporting lives and the area is not suffering any antisocial activities. This has been a big contribution of the academy to the society here,” he states.
Mr. Dulal highlights that not only the academy, but even footballers of the academy are now serving as role models. “Among the around 1,200 students at Central Pendam Senior Secondary School, these 30 students of the PFA are taken as an example by the whole school in recognition of their discipline and good behaviour,” he explains.
“It is the collective effort and team work of the members of the GVS supported by the people that has brought PFA to the present stage,” he adds.
PFA coach, Michael Lepcha, in turn observes that the success and achievements of PFA have proved that an academy in rural Sikkim can deliver professional and consistent support to footballers and the sport. “PFA footballers are very promising and have huge potential to do much better in the days to come,” he believes.
The PFA footballers begin their days early, starting with morning training from 6 to 8 AM, after which it is off to school and then back to the ground from 4 to 6 PM. The morning sessions mainly cover skills and exercises while the evening sessions cover technique and tactics.
Zilla Panchayat Member, Lochan Khatiwada, when asked to comment on PFA and its contribution to the locality, was all praises and appreciated love for sports and health that the academy has revived in the region.
“The PFA was successful in leading the younger generation of the area towards healthy lives by keeping them away from harmful pursuits,” he expressed.
An important annual event of the academy continues to be the Winter Football Coaching Camp which starts in December and continues to January every year since 2007. Also included in the list of activities at this camp are yoga classes and leadership training for students. PFA also provides exposure tours for its students within and outside the state from time to time.
PFA had also started the Pendam Football League in 2011 and was continued in 2012 as well but was later discontinued due to lack of fund and supports. But this is clearly a minor hiccup in the academy’s consistently rising graph.

They are PFA
The Pendam Football Academy won the second division Sikkim League earlier this year and will now debut in the senior league next year. This is only the latest in its impressive list of achievements…
1.       The PFA team represented Sikkim in the U-15 Manchester United Premier Cup at Jamshedpur in 2012. It made it to the semi-finals where it lost to Jharkhand.
2.       This year, PFA finished the Independence Day MLA Challenge Cup at Namthang School as runners-up. It lost in the final match to a team from Nepal.
3.       A PFA footballer Dakman Rai was adjudged the Best Player in Bajaj Allianz Junior Football Camp Season 4 which took place at Mohun Bagan Football Stadium in Kolkata in 2013. He received a cash award of Rs 30,000. This year again, Prashant Biswakarma of PFA was selected from the state to participate in Bajaj Allianz Junior Football Camp Season 5.
4.       Likewise, PFA footballers, Prashant Tamang and Sunil Rai were conferred the Grameen Football Gaurav Award by Sikkim Express in association with the Videocon d2H in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
5.       Five PFA footballers featured in the Sikkim squad for the Mir Iqbal Hussian Trophy in 2013, where Reshav Tamang was selected for the U-17 India camp held at Kalyani, Kolkata.
6.       On 23 May 2013, GVS felicitated Bhaichung Bhutia and a friendly match was also played between Bhaichung’s United Sikkim FC and PFA. The friendly attracted an audience in the thousands, a rare success for rural Sikkim.
7.       Similarly, several renowned Sikkimese players in different big clubs- Sanju Pradhan, Nim Tshering Lepcha, Ong Tshering Lepcha, Bikash Jairu, Bijendra Rai and Mobin Rai visited the PFA on 07 August 2013.These footballers spent three days with the academy boys and passed on footballing tips and skills during their time there.

8.       Sanju Pradhan has also accepted the request to promote the PFA as its ambassador. 

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