Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pem Dorji…who?

The Gangtok city recently played host to 1st All India Women's Football Championship for Pem Dorjee Memorial Cup at Paljor Stadium from 7th Oct to 15th Oct 2009 that had seven state women teams from Assam, Manipur, Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Goa and Sikkim. Manipuri girls defeated Orissa three goals to two in a tie breaker. Though the tournament wasn’t a big affair with the crowds except at the finals, I was more excited for the man behind who the tournament was named after. For the football lovers he was “Nilu” better known as Pem Dorji beyond the state. 

I was at Paljor Stadium watching one of the semi finals where I came across two boys still in their teens behind me chatting over the match and their confusion over the personality of Pem Dorji. They had never come across the name of Pem Dorji and were rather in a belief that the person might be some yesteryear female football player. I was giving ear to their talks with disbelief.  

I share a coincidental meeting with the football great Nilu in his closing days out at STNM Hospital in Gangtok. My mother was also admitted at the same hospital during those days. One fine morning Dhaba (my father’s elder brother) visited my mother at the hospital where on catching me up asked about my blood group. Without any hesitate I replied back “O positive” and he made me to follow him. On our walks along the Hospital Dara he went on to say I was to give blood to Nilu, a football player. I had never heard off the name before and did not reply back, I just followed Dhaba till he reached at one of the private patient cabin of the hospital. I still remember watching a man in blue T-Shirts lying on the patient’s bed and chatting with the visitors. Dhaba greeted him and introduced me and informed about my uninvited presence. Nilu as I had knew by then smiled at me and said they had found the blood donor at that time and would call me if they require me in weeks or so.  I just smiled him back and came out of the room. I never received any phone calls from Nilu or from anyone related to him and in couple of weeks later I got to know from newspaper that Nilu had passed away, he had been battling with cancer. The year than was 2001.
Pem Dorji was born at Gangtok to Mr. & Mrs. Gyampu T. Chingapa in 1958. He did his schooling in Scotish University Missions Institute in Kalimpong and Pelling Senior Secondary School in West Sikkim.
Pem Dorji had a distinction of becoming the first Sikkimese to captain the Indian national football team in the pre-Olympic tournament held in 1982 at Malaysia. He was part of the first Sikkimese football team at National Championships in 1976. Pem Dorjee was among the first few player from the Hills to had got chance to play at club football at than Calcutta when he played for Mohammadan Sporting Club in the 80s.He later played for many clubs like Mahendra Club of Kathmandu, Kaliks Sporting Team and Shree Paanch Mahendra Police Club. He represented India in the Nehru Gold Cup in the year 1983, 1984-85 and 1988, the President Cup at Dhaka, Bangladesh in 1983-84 and 1987, Chinese Great Wall Cup in 1984, the Asia Cup at Abu Dharabi in 1984 and SAF in 1987. On numerous occasions he was part of Sikkim team wins against the team ranked higher in national stage.
I still recall reading in newspapers about players like Bhaichung Bhutia and others making efforts in playing charity matches for the fund collection for Pem Dorji’s treatment. In recognition of his outstanding and contribution to the cause of football in the State and country, he was posthumously conferred the Roll of Honour by the State Government in 2002.