Football talents from Darjeeling likely lined-up for U-17 World Cup

11 Jan 2017

The North Bengal Sports Council, with the approval of the state government, has decided to start a talent hunt in the three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling from February for representing the country in the under-17 football World Cup.

A committee had already been formed with the Darjeeling district magistrate as its chairman and veteran footballer Shyam Thapa as the chief advisor.

Taking to reporters about the plans, former India skipper Bhaichung Bhutia, the chairman of the NBSC, said he held a meeting with district administration officials. “The project has been planned in consultation with the state sports department. The talent hunt is meant exclusively for the hills and below the age group of 17 years," he explained.

The NBSC will organise tournaments in the sub-division and block levels from February. Football technical experts, former national-level players and scouts from various premier clubs will be present during the matches to identify the India's own Messis and Ronaldos.

“It is a pilot project and our primary objective is to be able to pick at least two to three players from the hills to represent the country in the under-17 World Cup this October. Besides, prospective talents will also get an opportunity to play in premier clubs of Kolkata and other states if they are selected,” Bhutia said.

On Tuesday, scouts from the Mohun Bagan club selected 40 youngsters aged between 13 and 19 for training in the Sambalpur based Ekalavya Sports and Skill Development Foundation in Odisha. Bhutia, nicknamed the 'Sikkimese sniper' during his playing days, said the state government had already sanctioned Rs43 lakh for the project. “As far as I know, this project is the biggest in the north Bengal region. We will hold tournaments to search for the right talents in every village and municipality of the three hill sub-divisions. Our (NBSC) aim is to nurture talents in all games and give them the right platform,” he said.

The committee has already formed sub-divisional and block level units comprising four members each who will oversee tournament preparations and matches. Two teams each will be selected from each of the three sub-divisions and eight blocks of the hills. Finally, six teams will be selected from which the best will be available for playing in various clubs of the country.

Darjeeling district magistrate Anurag Srivastava said the proposal was prepared five to six months ago and approval from the state government was the only issue pending. “We had planned this some months back and were in touch with the state sports department for its approval. We have got the go ahead and funds have also been sanctioned. This will be a big endeavour for the region and provide a great opportunity to the youngsters of the region to play at the highest levels,” he said. (EOIC)