The 32nd edition of the Sikkim Governor's Gold Cup kicked-off today at the Paljor Stadium in the state capital Gangtok. In total 14 teams will be taking part, but due to the Durand Cup being held at the same time, not many I-League sides can take part still the field of participating teams is strong. The tournament happens to be the only tournament to have been held uninterruptedly for the last 31 years.
Besides defending champions Bengal-Nagpur Railway from Kolkata, the tournament will see two I-League sides in Pune FC and ONGC from Mumbai take part. Also participating are Northeastern biggies Shillong Lajong FC and Kolkata giants Mohammedan Sporting Club. Other participants are former champions Punjab Police, Bengal Mumbai FC and Techno Aryan Club from Kolkata. The foreign flavour will be added through Bhutan XI plus Nepalese sides Three Star and Manang Mashangdi; while the local sides will be United Sikkim Sporting Club, Denzong Boyz and Sikkim Police.
The opening match today was between local side United Sikkim Sporting Club and Bhutan XI. And the local side, who have India captain Baichung Bhutia as their patron and financier, defeated their Himalayan rivals 1-0. United Sikkim Sporting Club will now face Manang Mashangdi from Nepal on October 23 in a pre-quarterfinal match. The other Nepali club, Three Star, has been given a pre-quarterfinal berth and will take on Pune FC on October 25. Teams from Nepal are widely popular in Sikkim and attract huge crowds.
Shillong Lajong FC has also been given a pre-quarterfinal berth and on October 26 it will lock horns with the winners of the local derby between Sikkim Police and Denzong Boyz. Defending champions BNR, Mohammedan Sporting Club, Techno Aryan Club and Bengal Mumbai FC have all been given quarterfinal berths as the Sikkim FA considers them to be the higher ranking clubs among the other participants. The final will be played on November 2.
The Sikkim FA secretary Menla Ethanpa said before the start of the tournament, "We are expecting tough contest during the tournament as the teams are evenly poised."