Tshering Zangpo : The Golden Boy Of United Sikkim

Saturday, 15 December 2012|Parag Biswas
All of 14 now, Tshering has shown a promise very rarely seen in India. He is definitely a bright future for USFC…

The year was 2006. It was nearing the end of a friendly match in a village ground at Ghezing in North Sikkim between a team of village kids and students of a local primary school. 

The school team, with a few trained players in the squad, had controlled the match but failed to convert any of their scoring opportunities. The village kids had barely managed more than a few attempts at the opposition goal, but won a free kick in a dangerous area of the attacking half with six minutes of the match left to play.

The ball was whipped into the box, and seemed to hang in mid-air for what seemed an eternity. Near the back post a tiny figure snuck through the defence unnoticed and launched himself at the ball, connecting with his head and sending the ball past the hapless goalkeeper.

That boy today is Tshering Zangpo, rugged, no-nonsense, tough tackling forward who often takes the game into his own hands. He came into limelight at the Kalipada Dhar-Jagat Bandhu Basu Roy Under-16 Night Football Tournament – at the Kanchenjungha Stadium in Siliguri on November 4 this year where he was adjudged Player of the Meet and also bagged the top scorer award.

“To be honest,” he begins, “I didn’t realize that I would win the Player of the Meet title and get a special award for my performance in the tournament at Siliguri. We were really just trying to win the final as we had been under immense pressure after our senior team was held to a goalless draw by Pailan Arrows the day before. We were actually fortunate that we were awarded a penalty in the 50th minute which Pema converted.”

Zangpo was first recognized as a promising young footballer at a children’s meet in Namchi where he made a major impact throughout the campaign for the Ghezing XI team. He was scouted further and selected for training at the Namchi Sports Hostel when he was in class-III.

“I never really expected that I would be selected for special training in an academy. It all kind of came together all of a sudden. My parents had always been on my back to do well at school and kept telling me not to worry too much about my sporting career. I never thought I’d make a career out of it, but I got lucky and the pieces fell into place at the right times,” says Zangpo, who spent five years at the Namchi Sports Hostel, earning a berth in the USFC under-16 squad.

“I thought I’d give it a shot and if it ended up not working out I could always come back home and get a job as the trainees are also provided education during the training,” he continues. 

“Coming from a poor family at that time, you never seriously thought of having a professional career as a footballer, you pretty much just played for fun.”

The sudden demise of his father, Buddhiman Tamang, who was a driver by profession, in 2009 and his mother, Bina Tamang, who was a housewife, the next year, threatened to jeopardize Zangpo’s career, and the 14-year-old footballer reveals it was difficult trying to adjust to both the way the club was run, the competition to make the first team squad, as well as adjusting to life in a new situation.

“I had a really hard first couple of months after the death of my father,” he says. “Being young, not know how to share my grief with others and missing family and relatives was terrible at first,” while adding, “It’s also a cut throat professional game over there, with lots of players jostling for those positions and trying to make a career out of it. You’re just thrown into the mix and its pretty much sink or swim and I think you have got to be pretty tough to be able to survive in that type of environment, especially after you lose your father and mother within ten months.”

Zangpo attributes his success as much to his departed “Papa” and “Mummy” as to his elder brother Sandip Tamang, who also is a driver by profession. “Sandip Daju is the only bread-winner in our family. He works very hard to ensure that I can continue my studies and training.

My 16-year-old elder brother Kumar Daju and my sisters, Sonam and Sophia, are also dependent on him. I am hugely indebted to him for my success,” says the class-VIII student, who appeared for the United Sikkim Football Club in both the Subrato Cup and Chief Minister’s Gold Cup in Sikkim. 

A diehard fan of the Brazilian soccer star Neymar da Silva Santos Junior, Zangpo has now set his sight on representing India. “Neymar is not only my hero. He is the hero of many young footballers in my village, who all wish to see me play for India and score goals for my country as Neymar does for Brazil,” he said.

When asked what the defining moments in his career was, Zangpo replied, “Definitely our Independence Day match against Sikkim Police in Gangtok on August 15 and scoring that winning goal for USFC from about 25-yards against George Telegraph in the under-16 meet at Siliguri on November 4 and bagging the title of Man of the Match, it was just absolutely unbelievable; I can’t even describe the feeling.”