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Bengal cops tap football frenzy

Football is fast emerging as the West Bengal Police’s fancied tool to deal with situations that can’t be tackled by batons and bullets.

india Updated: Aug 13, 2010 01:12 IST
Amitava Banerjee

Football is fast emerging as the West Bengal Police’s fancied tool to deal with situations that can’t be tackled by batons and bullets.

Taking a leaf out of the public relations book scripted by their counterparts in the state’s Maoist-affected West Midnapore district, the Darjeeling police kicked off a football tournament near the hill station on Thursday.

Though they won’t admit it, the police here obviously aim to win public support and defuse the simmering Gorkhaland agitation.

“Football provides a golden opportunity for the police to interact with the public. In Lalgarh, too, the police had organised a number of matches and they helped us build a healthy police-public relationship,” said state Director General of Police Bhupinder Singh, who kicked off the tournament.

Singh’s faith in football as a public relations instrument is shared by the Maoists. The rebels had organised their own tournament in West Midnapore in June to rally popular support for their cause. The police followed by organising theirs the next month.

The police’s tournament in West Midnapore in July saw dozens of villages competing against each other. Two players were selected for a training trip to German club Bayern Munich.

The championship in Darjeeling has 16 teams, mostly from the tea gardens, competing for a cash award of Rs 10,000. The best players from Darjeeling will also be sent to Bayern Munich for a training stint.

But why football? “Darjeeling has a rich history and tradition of football.

Tournaments like the Brigade of Gorkhas Gold Cup have been very popular here. In the 70s and early 80s, teams from across the country used to come to Darjeeling to take part in the Gold Cup tournament,” Bengal’s top cop said.