When you are nine and nothing else is on the line, playing football in the mud is fun. But when you turn 19, playing in a similar setup often raises question.
Slipping and sliding, sinking inches into the mud with each step you take, and the muck almost taking your shoe right off your foot, this is the kind of football every Sherubtsian have experienced.
As a high school student in Kanglung, Tenzin Choeda, has witnessed numerous football matches on the muddy Sherubtse College ground. Often he would be part of a game with his friends.
The 20-year-old always wanted to be a part of the college’s most sought out tournament: the monsoon football. This year was his opportunity. Tenzin is a first year student at the college.
However, with the on-going installation of artificial turf on the ground, the monsoon tournament this year will not be conducted.
“It’s unfortunate that I cannot be a part of the tournament this year,” said Tenzin. “But I’m happy that I will be one of the few to kick off monsoon tournament on an artificial turf next year.”
Since its inception in 1990, the tournament has been one of the most popular football competitions among the college students. Apart from playing on a muddy ground during peak rainy season, the tournament has some unique characteristics.
The opening match of the tournament always starts with two teams from DH-I and DH-III – Maha Howery and Changzay. The match would draw special attention because most of the players on the teams would be playing football for the first time.
In addition, the players would come drunk on the field. Drumrolls and cymbals would welcome the two teams who would be colliding more with each other than playing football.
Still today, the two teams with the same name kicks off the tournament. However, the president of the college, Tshering Wangdi, said that with firm sports regulations now in place, the trend of coming drunk to the pitch has stopped.
The finals of the tournament would feature a grand entrance. Each team would be escorted from their respective hostels by an army of hostel residents dressed in different characters.
Each finalist would have their own set of crowd including students dressed as ministers, doctors, police, monks, dancers and cameraman among others.
Alumni of the college and a former national football player, Yeshey Dorji, said that monsoon tournament is one of the biggest, which brings everyone in the college together.
“By far, the monsoon tournament finals in Sherubtse was one of the best local tournaments I’ve ever played,” he said. “It’s all about the love, passion and craze for the game.”
He said that the cheers and jeers from the crowd while the players were literally ploughing the field was by far one of the best experiences of his footballing career.
The tournament was first introduced to bring in more interaction between hostels in the college. “The objective of the monsoon tournament still remains the same and that is to bring in more unity within the hostels and also encourage interactions between different hostels,” said Tshering Wangdi.
He said that the vigour and charm of the tournament has remained unchanged to date. “Football is the most popular game among students in the college,” he said. “Now with the artificial turf coming up, this should encourage more participation not only from students but also from faculties and residents in the locality.”
Kinley Choden, a final year student, said that the tournament has got a reputation that precedes everything else. “I was informed about the monsoon tournament by my seniors and it was exactly what they said,” she said. “I was never into football. But now I can’t wait for the tournament to begin.”
While many of the students are unhappy with the tournament not happening this year, the installation of artificial turf is causing excitement among students.
Tshering Wangdi said that as a tribute to His Majesty The King, the college would start with the Chancellors Cup tournament. The college will also revive the Sherubtse Premier League.
Younten Tshedup | Trashigang