Dehradun shares a special bond with Indian football. There was a time when the Doon valley was considered a major football hub of the country. By producing a number of international footballers like Bir Bahadur, Ram Bahadur, Amar Bahadur, Shyam Thapa and Ranjit Thapa, this small town created a name for itself in sports. Even now, in the Garhi Cantonment locality, people come to watch young players playing football. In a cricket-crazy nation, many youths wearing proper kits can be seen playing soccer in any available field in and around the cantonment area.
A major chunk of credit for football development in the town goes to the Army team stationed here. The Gorkha Brigade team created history by winning the famous Durand Cup in 1966 and 1969. The success of the 58 Gorkhas, which was stationed here at that time, field helped the sport gain popularity in this part of the world. The 58 Gorkhas finished runners up thrice in the DCM Trophy: 1950, ’51 & ’52.
Writer Madhu Gurung says, “The Gorkhas ruled Garhwal for 11 years. After facing defeat in the 1814 AngloNepalese War , most of the Gorkhas settled in different parts of Dehradun. They possibly got inspired by army troops, who were stationed here, to play football.” The interest in football brought fame for the Gorkha community. A total of 10 footballers from Dehradun have represented India and eight of them were Gorkha.
The list starts with the first professional footballer from Dehradun, Chandan Singh, who was a member of the Indian team which won gold in the 1951 Asian Games in New Delhi. Bir Bahadur, Ram Bahadur, Amar Bahadur, Bhupendra Rawat, Shyam Thapa, Ranjeet Thapa and CP Thapa donned the Indian colours to establish dominance of Gorkha players in Indian football.
Shyam Thapa, ex-India footballer & All India Football Federation’s technical director, says, “There were little career options at that time.The top choice was to become officer in the Army. But, football gave name and fame to Gorkha players. They became stars in Indian sports to make the Gorkha community proud.”
The sports-loving Gorkhas continue to operate a large number of local football clubs. Suresh Gurung says, “There are about three dozen football clubs in Dehradun, of which about 10 are operated by Gorkhas.” These three dozen clubs fight for supremacy in the Dehradun Football League, which started way back in 1937.
Vijay Cantt, Wills Youth Club, FC Doon, Khukri, Cantt Blues, Thakurpur Boys, Nehrugram, Gorkha Boys, Pachwadoon and CT Young are among the clubs run by Gorkhas. It is estimated that even in other football clubs, there is an impressive presence of Gorkha players. No wonder football holds an important place in the life of Gorkhas living in the Doon valley.