Dehradun: January 13 brings pleasant memories for football lovers of the Doon Valley. On this day, a football club from Dehradun created history by claiming a maiden title victory abroad. Jubilant Jyoti cruised into the history books by winning the Birthday Cup in Kathmandu (Nepal) in 1976. This is the only title victory that a football team from Uttarakhand Himalayas has ever achieved outside India.
A record crowd was present at the Railway station when the Jubilant Jyoti Club returned from Nepal. Recalling this, JP Sharma, Manager of the team, said, "The sight was unbelievable! A record number of sports lovers came to welcome us on our return. We were garlanded and taken on 'buggies' around the city.'
Jubilant Jyoti defeated Young Heroes (Darjeeling) by a solitary goal in the final of the 1976 Birthday Cub to clinch the glittering trophy. The packed to capacity Dasharath Stadium witnessed a close contest between the two teams. After a goalless first half, the Dehradun club managed to find the net in the 25th minute of the second half. Recalling the match winner, goal scorer Umesh Aswal, says, "Chandra Bahadur took a shot and I guessed that it was going to hit the pole. My anticipation proved to be right and I found an easy rebound near the post to score the lone goal of the match."
The local sports lovers had every reason to celebrate the win as it came after a gap of some four years. It will be recalled that in 1972, Gorkha Boys Company (Dehradun) reached the final of the Subroto Mukherjee Cup in New Delhi.
Captain Ratan Thapa led from the front to fashion the win. Choked with emotion, he says, "I was not well and suffering from a chest infection. So, I decided to take leave from the Army to take some rest at my home in Dehradun. I came to Dehradun and Sharmaji told me about the tournament. I simply could not resist and decided to go to Nepal, despite my ill health. We never expected that we would win the title. But, it did happen! The scene of the final was electrifying, with a jam packed crowd."
The Nepal Football Association, so far, annually hosts the Birthday Cup to celebrate the birthday of the king. Every year, football clubs from India and Nepal fight for top honours in this championship.
Incidentally, the 1976 Birthday Cup win was the last big win of any Dehradun club in the senior section at the international or national levels.