A 22-member soccer team from Sikkim along with team officials left for Begusarai, Bihar on Thursday to participate in the Santosh Trophy east zone qualifying round.
Star footballer and former captain of India Bhaichung Bhutia is leading the team as the chief coach with Suren Chettri as coach and Arjun Rai as the manager.
Placed in Group A, Sikkim will play its first match on January 28 against Bihar and then against Odisha on January 30. The group winner qualifies for the next round of Santosh Trophy national football tournament.
The team underwent a three-week training camp that began in Gangtok and ended in Siliguri.
The team management said, the team has begun the tour with a positive frame of mind and that all the players are physically fit and fine.
The training camp initially began with 28 players at the Paljor Stadium in Gangtok. Later it came down to 25 players when the team trained at SSB Ranidanga campus near Siliguri for acclimatization. During their two camps in Siliguri, the Sikkim team played four friendly matches against local teams.
The team management further said that the team is balanced mix of experienced players and young blood.
The players have been trained by Baichung Bhutia to play offensive football against the Bihar and Odisha teams, the officials shared with the media before the tour.
Notably, besides taking care of the entire training needs, Bhaichung has also sponsored the kit and jerseys of the Sikkim team through his company Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools.
Goalkeepers: Bipen Bhattarai, Urgen Pintso Sherpa, Hissey Norbu Bhutia
Defence: Sonam Zangpo Bhutia, Kunal Tamang, Narayan Chettri, Tempa Lhandup Bhutia, Azfal Ansari, Amrit Tamang, Pappu Chettri
Midfield: Thupden Tshering Bhutia, Dawa Lendup Sherpa, Prashant Chettri, Prashant Rai, Palsang Lama, Engphohang Subba
Forwards: Sanjay Chettri, Ashish Chettri, Sonam Tshering Bhutia, Ong Tshering Lepcha (junior), Nagen Tamang, M.D. Lepcha
Captain: Sanjay Chettri Vice captain: Sonam Zangpo
Chief coach: Bhaichung Bhutia
Coach: Suren Chettri Manager: Arjun Rai