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The Sikkimese Sniper believes that the north east derby shall go a long way in promoting the sport in the region…

The I-League shall see its first ever north-east derby when United Sikkim play host to Shillong Lajong at the Paljor Stadium on Saturday. Bhaichung Bhutia, the co-owner cum interim coach of the club, stated that such derbies help in popularizing the sport to a great extent.

“This is really big. I think you need these kinds of derbies to create a lot of hype and generate a lot of fan base for the club. It is always nice to see two clubs from the north east coming together. The derby is going to be good. I would say United Sikkim is still a new club compared to Lajong and I think this derby can help the sport grow in the north east,” he opined.

The promoted side have played five matches at home this season and the crowd response has been decent, if not spectacular, as they have come in to show their support at the Paljor Stadium which has a capacity of 25000.

“We are getting good crowd. Last week was very bad as there were a lot of rumuors of the match not happening. We are hoping it will improve but despite two or three matches against the likes of Salgaocar and East Bengal, we haven’t had a capacity crowd,” he mentioned.

However it must be noted that The Snow Lions do get more fans in their stadium than most I-League clubs. Despite that it is seen that the corporates do not take a keen interest when it comes to sponsorship.

"For United Sikkim, this is the first year in the I-League. It will take time for us. Sikkim is not big in terms of corporate interest as compared to Shillong or other cities. We are a small state. We have a fan following and good crowd coming in but in terms of market for corporates, it hasn’t been good. But I think in future, things will change,” he hoped.

Nathan Hall has arrived in India but shall take over the coaching reins after the north-east derby given that he is yet to get to know the team. Bhaichung has done a commendable job as a manager as he took over the team after their morale was at an all-time low and got them to draw three of the next four games, with three of those being away from home.

“In every game we play, we want to go for three points. Our mentality has been the same but the approach has changed. We have made changes in the formation as well. I started with a 4-4-2 but changed it to 4-3-3 and that’s how we have been playing now. Even in Europe, we have seen many teams adopting 4-4-3 from a 4-4-2. We have the mentality to win three points from the first minute whether we play at home or away which is crucial,” he explained.

Bhaichung had a word of advice for his players ahead of the derby as he has asked to take it as any other important fixture on the list and be motivated to perform well.

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