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    Sikkim Likely To Get NE’s First FIFA Approved Stadium

    If all goes as planned, Sikkim will have a professional stadium in all four districts by 2021-2022

    Sikkim could be looking at having the first FIFA approved stadium in the entire Northeast if the proposal submitted by the State Sports and Youth Affairs (SYA) Department to the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) comes through. The Department has initiated the process and is working towards fulfilling the criteria required for Bhaichung Stadium in Namchi, South Sikkim, to get FIFA approval.

    Speaking with Media, Additional Chief Engineer, SYA Department, Shanti Tamang informed that the process has already been initiated but FIFA officials have asked for few technical requirements to be put in place in order for the stadium to meet international standards. “The State Government has initiated the process of acquiring the required set of machinery and equipment to meet FIFA standards,” said Tamang.

    Meanwhile, Contractor of the Bhaichung Stadium, Shanker Agarwal, said that 80% of the construction work is complete and the aim is to get the stadium ready by the end of March 2020. The construction work of the stadium resumed only eight months ago and is now almost complete.

    “The present government has been taking keen interest in the field of sports and youth affairs and has been involved in promoting various sports in Sikkim, that is why the government has directed departments to expedite all ongoing work of various stadiums and other developmental work in the sports sector,” said Secretary, Sports and Youth Affairs Department, Kuber Bhandari. Tendered in 2011, work on the Bhaichung Stadium got on in fits and starts.

    A STADIUM STALLED

    Since it began, construction of the stadium stopped for some time in 2013 and work was again stopped from 2015 till 2018. Many reasons have been given for the delay, chief among them being the lack of funds.

    “Between 2015 and 2018, no works were initiated and no progress was shown during this period, and the reason was non-availability of resources, i.e. funds,” said Tamang who is looking after the Bhaichung Stadium construction project. The initial construction cost of the Bhaichung Stadium Rs 35.68 crore, which was the original sanctioned cost as per the issued Work Order value.

    Bhaichung Stadium is under a Central Project under Special Plan Assistance (SPA) under the Planning Commission of the Government of India. The funding pattern for the project was 90-10 which means that 90 per cent of the fund will be provided by the Central Government under Special Plan Assistance (SPA) and the state government would contribute 10% of the total cost of the construction of the stadium.

    SPORTPERSONS SPEAK

    Bhaichung Bhutia, in whose name the stadium has been built, said that the delay has affected sports and sportspersons in the state, especially of South Sikkim.

    “Sikkim has very few stadiums and grounds. And once it is locked or under construction, then a lot of players don’t get the space to play and we could lose talent in this period,” said Bhutia, former Indian Football Team Captain.

    Football enthusiast Sanjay Rai says that the delay has badly affected the career of young football players like him as there is no ground or area where they can practice and this is due to the carelessness of the Government and the Department. “Timely completion of construction would have been helpful for all sportspersons,” he added.

    However, he has thanked the Department and the Sikkim Government for finally making Bhaichung Stadium possible and expressed his hope that the stadium will be ready by March this year.

    UPCOMING STADIUMS IN SIKKIM

    As of now, there is only one full-fledged professional stadium in the state and that is Paljor Stadium in Gangtok (East District). The second big stadium coming up is Bhaichung Stadium in Namchi (South District) which is expected to have better facilities. Another two stadiums are coming up at Mangan (North District) and Gyalshing (West District).

    If all goes as planned, Sikkim will have a professional stadium in all four districts by 2021-2022.
    As per the information provided by the Sports Department, stadiums in Mangan and Gyalshing are under construction and will be completed by 2021-2022.

    The construction and up-gradation work of Kyongsa Playground with international standard track and field at Kyongsa in Gyalshing is under progress.

    Photo: @prakashadhikari

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