Shillong, Apr 7: Laban Sports Club, the oldest of their kind in Meghalaya, have released the players in their football team and could pull out of football entirely as they cannot meet the financial costs required to run the squad.

Laban, who currently play in the Shillong Sports Association’s First Division, are without sponsors and have been dependent on individual well-wishers and club officials to keep going, but this has proved to be unsustainable.

Top club administrators met on Thursday to discuss the football team, but a final decision on whether to carry on (if this is feasible) or, sadly, disband the football team will be made next week.

Speaking to TSR one senior official asserted that the Laban dorbar shnong (council) isn’t as supportive of the local team as others, such as Malki, Nongrim Hills, etc. Football clubs in Meghalaya largely depend on wealthy owners or their local support base centred around particular neighbourhoods or villages for financial support as corporate sponsors are virtually non-existent.

Even the awards of winning a tournament in Meghalaya are slim. Laban finished third in the First Division in 2017, narrowly losing out on a spot in this year’s Shillong Premier League (SPL). Yet, even had they won the First Division title as champions they would have only received a paltry Rs 50,000 as prize money.

The SPL offers greater monetary awards, but not much. Last year’s winners Langsning FC picked up a cheque of Rs 2 lakh for a tournament that runs for twice as long as the First Division and is a step up in terms of player salaries and other expenses.

The coming of the Meghalaya State League, of which the December 2017 to January 2018 edition was the first, offered a (relatively) large champions purse of Rs 5 lakh with Rs 3 lakh going to the runners-up, but entry is limited to the champions of the football associations affiliated with the Meghalaya Football Association (except for the SPL, which gets three entrants), so this excludes the clubs from the First Division.

Laban SC has been at the forefront of sporting activities in Shillong since the early part of the 20th century. Founded as the Laban Athletics Club in 1906, it later switched to its present moniker and has recorded a number of successes in football, cricket, badminton, hockey and other disciplines over its lifetime. The club has been most active in football, but, though it has seen much local success in years gone by, in recent times it has struggled, culminating in having to play in the Third Division. However, 2012 appeared to be the nadir, with Laban progressing to the First Division in 2014, where they still find themselves.

Last year the club opened an indoor stadium built at a cost of Rs 2 crore, which was built with government funding, and has proven to be extremely popular with ordinary citizens looking to take part in badminton, basketball, table tennis, etc.

The Laban football team last took part in the 4th New Nongstoin Knock-Out Football Tournament, where they finished as runners-up earlier this year.

With the football squad having been released, players have been heading for other pastures. Two – Kitboklang Pale and Kynsaibor Lhuid – have become key figures in Langsning FC’s campaign to qualify for the I-League, while Henry Marboh and Bickyson Kharkongor are doing the same at Delhi United.

(TSR file photo)

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