2012- Month after forming Organizing Committee to upgrade the football ground in Namchi, there was excitement in the youths of Namchi and they thought this was the last year for them to play in the muddy ground which used to host the famous All India Governor’s Gold cup. A spanking new sports complex was to come up there, with a football stadium, the idea just perfect for the Sikkim.
It was extremely encouraging because the All India Governor’s Gold Cup which was hosted in Bhaichung Stadium, named after famous footballer Bhaichung Bhutia would be getting a new look. The tournament used to be a massive crowd puller, extremely massive than any tournaments at Gangtok’s Plajor Stadium. The first cursory check that Sikkim Government does when a State expresses an interest in staging a tournament is the number of operational football stadiums in the state, and the number that can be built in time. And stadium modifications and development are among the most important aspects of the preparation for upgrading. Nevertheless, for a new stadium, the old stadium was destroyed who lead to the heartbreak of many players from Namchi.
During the course of development, the August parade for every Institution and College in Namchi became a memory. Last August Football tournament was held in 2013. The Governor’s Gold Cup in Namchi became History.
SAI Namchi players complained of difficulty in playing during 2015-16. The government turned deaf ears over the stadium and slowly players too vanished from Namchi’s side, many gave up playing football.
The wall on the ground was carefully resized during 2013-14 and a small part of green grass ground was left so the players could use it to practice there. Some players kept dreaming, hoping for many years to see the stadium, but in reality, it wasn’t happening. Young lads wanted to see themself in national football arenas, but their practicing ground was gone. Namchi stopped playing and producing players.
‘It hurts me to see, we are not being valued. I gave up a long time ago, I always dreamed of myself playing at the national level and realise that it was just a dream” said an old friend of the 2010-12 batch who now works as an Adhoc Teacher in West Sikkim.
The construction went ahead at a snail’s pace. Everyone who travelled from Namchi to Assangthang knew the real issue of Bhaichung Stadium. The slow work rate, no progress, politically motivated and corrupt administrative practices, and mismanagement of erstwhile Chamling Government delayed work.
Back in 2013 one of my friends who came from Kolkata who went to Char Dham was discussing Sikkim will change in the sporting arena once Bhaichung stadium is completed, this is where national level football will be hosted because the ground itself is in name of India’s most loved captain known by everyone.
“When will this stadium be completed?” He asked as he was a fan of Mohun Bagan.
“Maybe After the 2014 election,” I said, but I was sure this stadium would be completed earlier otherwise it would be a national shame to the Government.
The stadium remained in a complete mess till 2019. Another stadium like Dwarka which was started alongside Bhaichung Stadium was all set to host FIFA U-17 with 18,000 seating capacity with all entire facility available. And Dwarka did well in the 2017 U-17 World Cup, this is what Sikkim missed- it would get an opportunity to host the FIFA U-17 World Cup if the Chamling Government and his administration had used their brain to complete the stadium in 2015 itself also increasing stadium to field size of 105 x 68m.
In 2019, the Government changed and current Chief Minister Prem Singh Golay vowed to complete the stadium before August 2020. All of a sudden the work caught pace. CM’s Son and MLA, Aditya Golay who’s also a footballer knew the real pain and issue of the player pushed management into action with a deadline date of 2020. In just one and a half years Bhaichung Stadium has completed Everything Changed between 2019-2021. Things were analysed and implemented properly. The corridor from the dressing room to the ground had anti-skid tiles installed. The medical room or doping center too improved. The entire environment and crowd seats of Namchi have finally got their true shape after 11 years but the size of the ground remains the same as earlier because seating capacity was already made. This majestic Bhaichung Stadium will soon create history in Sikkim.
The FIFA opportunity which was missed badly earlier will be compensated and we hope of hosting great matches in the near future.