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Thu, 19 Jul 2018

Northeast Today

Sikkim’s Girls Netting Stars

Sikkim’s Girls Netting Stars
January 12
14:06 2018

December Edition, Statewide Sikkim, NET Bureau, Bhargab Jyoti Sarmah

Until a few years back these girls certainly did not think that someday they would become the source of inspiration for many other girls and that a journalist from a distant state would talk and write about them. Well, that’s the reality today and this all girls’ basketball team from Sikkim is making headlines for all the right reasons. Northeast Today speaks to Siddharth Yonzone- the man responsible for bringing out that ‘extra’ from these super talented girls- and finds out more about them and their journey so far.

First Words

Once they were used to milking cows and gathering woods. But today, they are the shining armour in the world of basketball and they have not just made themselves proud, but also brought laurels to their state- Sikkim.

This all girls’ basketball team from Gangyap- a small village in Sikkim- had no idea what basketball was till they were introduced to the game by Siddharth Yonzone, principal of Ekalavya Model Residential School (EMRS), Gangyap. He not only introduced them to the sport, but instead infused the game to their veins and hence, today, the EMRS Gangyal Girls’ Basketball Team is a force to reckon with- not just in Sikkim but in the entire nation.

The Beginning

Initially, Siddharth used to coach boys of a different school but later he switched to the girls after seeing their poor standards. After joining EMRS Gangyap in 2007, he started working with the girls’ team. At first they had no court, no boards. But basketball impressed them so much that they set up a handmade court for practicing. They collected stone chips and packed down the surface with cement.

“The improvement and interest I saw in the girls inspired me to train them harder. Watching the NBA also helped in training them,” he says.

Nima Doma Bhutia was the first captain of the team. The team played its first match in Namchi Public School, South Sikkim on May 2007.

Sikkim Girls

Story So Far

Through various challenges the girls of Gangyap are making Sikkim proud at the national level. Even more, playing basketball proved to be life changing for them. It has given them huge exposure and their basketball journeys have taught them more about realities of life.

“Challenges have been plenty. But playing the nationals is something else. Only Nima Doma and Rinchen Doma have been playing for the Madhya Pradesh state team at the senior level. Sikkim has been recently affiliated to the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) but even then we have not been called to play in the senior nationals as of now. The girls want to play but without the support of those who can help them to play, it is difficult,” bemoans Siddharth.

Journey Continues

Challenges have never bogged these girls down. On the contrary, challenges have made them stronger to overcome obstacles and win medals, awards and since 2007, the team has only gone on to climb the ladder of success without looking back. So far, the team has won the Sikkim State Championship for 10 times.

EMRS Gangyap Girls’ Basketball Team became the first basketball team from Sikkim to win a medal at the national level.

They have won the CBSE North Eastern Regional Champions for the eighth consecutive time since 2010. In 2011 and 2013 they have won CBSE National Champions and in 2012they won a silver medal. They are also the silver medallist at the 24th North East Championship in 2010.

Sikkim Girls Basketball

Since 2011 the EMRS Gangyap Girls’ Basketball Team has been the winner of the Darjeeling Open Basketball Championship. They were also the champions of the Northeast School Champions held in Mizoram. The team in 2016 won a bronze medal at the CBSE Nationals. Nima Doma Bhutia, the former captain of the team won Chacha Nehru Sports Award for 3 consecutive times in 2011, 2012 and 2013. She was also adjudged as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) consecutively for three years.

In fact, she has already been called for the national camp twice. Yonzone believes that if she gets a chance to represent the country, Nima won’t disappoint. Seeing her wear the Indian jersey would be a victory for all the girls who first started this journey. Nima won’t just be playing for herself but all those who helped build that court and their dreams.

Final Words

Breaking the stereotypes, and with the help and guidance from a man who wanted to change the mindset, a few girls from a small Sikkim village have shown the path for many other girls to follow. With some more support from the government, these girls can surely scale many more peaks in the years to come. The change that they have initiated will not go in vain and in the years to follow there would be more girls from Sikkim who would take basketball as a career option and make India proud at the international level.

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