Last month (June 2018) we visited Sikkim and we arrived just as the World Cup began. There are many parts of India where World Cup could mean cricket, but there are a few states such as Sikkim where everybody knows that World Cup means football or soccer.
Gangtok, Pelling, and all little villages and towns in between where decked up with little flags of different football playing nations that had made it to the World Cup finals in Russia. Chong Bhutia, the youngster who was chauffeur to us through the trip, had decked up the Innova with the flags of Argentina, Brazil, Spain and Portugal. We travelled by day and watched football by evening and night. Most places we visited had a ground where people were playing football. If there wasn’t a ground, a clearing or little sloping meadow worked just as well. Little boys, young and old men and women are all into football in Sikkim.
But that still may not give you a picture of how embedded football is in Sikkimese society. This video might give you an idea. This is footage from a football match played by local women from in and around Damthang village in South Sikkim. We were on our way from Ravangla to Namchi when we were driving through this village which seemed kind of deserted, and then we noticed some people standing on the edge of a hillock, so we got down to investigate and there we saw most of the village engaged and animated about the football match. That’s how ingrained football is in Sikkim!