Pem Dorji, the star who shone bright but left us too early

Gangtok, 25 Mar:

Sikkim has always been known as the Land of Orchids, the Abode of Khangchendzonga, now an Organic State as well. But Sikkim has also been the home of legends, producing many iconic figures. The entire region of Sikkim and Darjeeling over the years has produced many talented football players. Bhaichung Bhutia, Sanju Pradhan, Nirmal Chettri from Sikkim to name the recent and current favourites. There were also legendary football players like Chandan Singh Rawat, Urgen Lama ‘Mini’ from Darjeeling and Kalimpong and Pem Dorji from Sikkim.

Here’s a recall story of the legendary footballer from Sikkim, the Late Pem Dorji, who captained the Indian football team for a brief period in the mid-Eighties andwhose story, unfortunately, has somewhat faded from public memory.

Born in the year 1958 in the small hamlet of Ben in South Sikkim to Ganesh Kumari Gurung and Gyampu T Chingapa, Pem Dorjicompleted his fundamentals from Kalimpong’s Scottish University Mission Institute [SUMI] and later from Pelling Senior Secondary School in West Sikkim.

From his childhood days, the name Pem Dorji was synonymous with football.

His passion for the game made him part of the first Sikkim State football team which played at the National Championshipsin Coimbatore in 1976.

The tournament passaged his entry into the world of professional football. Pem Dorji played as a defender and midfielder and scripted many memorable performances during a career which stretched almost a decade.

Soon after his state-level debut, Pem Dorji started playingfor Mohammedan Sporting, a club he joined in 1980. Shortly after, in 1982, he became the first Sikkimese to captain the Indian national football team in the Pre-Olympic tournament held in Malaysia.

Gradually, Pem Dorji went on to represent India in several international games. He played at the Chinese Great Wall Cup in 1984 and won the prestigious medal for the country.

He was also part of the Indian Football Team at South Asian Federation Games and further played the famous Asia Cup in Abu Dhabi in 1988.

Pem Dorjee represented India in the Nehru Gold Cup in the year 1983, 1984-85 and 1988 and in The President’s Cupat Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 1983-84 and 1987.

Pem Dorji, a passionate footballer from Sikkim, played for various clubs during his lifetime. He was a part of Mahendra Police Club of Nepal, Mohammedan Sporting Club, East Bengal, Mohun Bagan ACand FCI- Calcutta.

The passionate footballer,however, left the world too soon and passed away aged 42. He had been battling cancer for a long time and breathed his last in a nursing home in Calcutta on 18 Oct 2001.

He is survived by his wife, Pushpa Yonzon, and children Zennyla Bhutia and Marco Bhutia. Sikkim will always be proud of Pem Dorji.