May 6, 2013 2:22:05 am
Rangdajied Uniteds qualification for the I-League on Saturday was nothing short of a fairytale. But Karsing Kurbah,the clubs general secretary,doesnt want to associate the word with his clubs rise.
Fairytales seldom have happy endings, says Kurbah rather cautiously. However,for Rangdajied the promotion is a reason to celebrate. They became the second side from Shillong to qualify for the I-League on Saturday,the other being Lajong.
After years of struggle,that also included the ignominy of a few of their players being allegedly involved in fixing matches,the football team from Meghalaya can finally look forward to better days.
For the last few years,Rangdajied were the nearly team in the second division of the I-League. They came close to achieving promotion,but never quite got there. To make matters worse for them,the club was battling one of its biggest crisis only a year ago. Known as Ar Hima back then,some of the clubs players faced allegations of match fixing in the second division.
The officials accused another club from the North-East of paying Rs 50,000 per month to some of their key players to under-perform. Then coach Subrata Bhattacharya admitted he received information that a few of his players had been influenced to underperform. Soon the axe would fall on him and the players.
Sensing something had to be done to restore the clubs image,the management decided to rename it Rangdajied and begin afresh. Kurbah refuses to talk about that incident at this happy hour but adds: Did we change the name of the club because of that? Yes,you can say that. I am glad we emerged strongly from that incident. From 1987 from 2012,the club was named Ar Hima,meaning Two Kingdoms. Rangdajied means Selected Stars.
Change of name triggered change of luck as well. The Selected Stars came close to winning the Shillong Premier League but qualifying for the I-League was their primary objective.
You can call it luck. I would call it hard work. We have come close in the past but couldnt cross the finish line, Kurbah says. While we were preparing for the second division,I remember not allowing the players to go home for a single day. They listened and today we are reaping the dividends.
Having these many teams coming up from the North East is,in a way,justice to Indian football,which has heavily relied on players from that region. In 2009,after Lajong became the first team from the North-East to be a part of the I-League,Baichung Bhutia co-owned United Sikkim too made an entry in the top flight this season only to find themselves at the bottom of the 14-team league. Rangdajieds presence next season will ensure that North-East will continue to have at least two representatives in the I-League.
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