Bharati-AIFF football academy runs into rough weather

March 28th, 2008 - 5:12 pm ICT by admin  

By Abhishek Roy
New Delhi, March 28 (IANS) The state-of-the-art Bharati-All India Football Federation (AIFF) Academy, which was to be commissioned at Cuncolim in Goa by Monday, has run into rough weather with politicians jumping into the fray even as the local residents seek their pound of flesh. The intense rivalry between the Goa government’s coalition partners has not helped matters either in seeing the prestigious Rs.1 billion academy going on stream as scheduled.

The ego clash between the housing minister Mickey Pacheco of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), a coalition partner in the Goa government, and Urban Development Minister Joaquim Alemo, who is also the local legislator, has complicated matters. Incidentally, both the ministers have great interest in football and invested in Goan clubs.

Pacheco told IANS that the land still belongs to his ministry and in no way would he allow the academy to be built on it.

“The land belongs to the housing board and in no way I am going to give it to anyone. Let them go and have the academy somewhere else,” Pacheco says.

It looked as if everything was in order when the AIFF announced earlier in the month that the Goa cabinet had allotted approximately 126,000 sq metres of land at Panzarcorne in Cuncolim, 20 km from Margao, and that work would start soon.

The allotted land belongs to State Urban Development Authority (SUDA), which is under the ministry of urban development headed by Alemao (Congress), who is also the president of Goa Football Association (GFA).

The problems started with Cuncolim residents objecting to the academy coming up in the area as they felt that there was no need for it.

They also resented the entire land being allotted to the academy besides insisting on a 25 percent reservation for the local people in the jobs generated by it.

Sensing trouble, Alemao called a public meeting in Cuncolim. AIFF officials and Bharti representatives also attended it. The residents were assured that AIFF and its sponsors would take their approval for the project plan.

In the run-up to the June 2007 assembly polls, Alemao promised his Cuncolim constituents that professional technical colleges, a cultural bhavan and a swimming pool would come up on the sprawling SUDA land.

After retaining his seat, he has retracted from his stand. He is now pitching for the academy.

It is also being whispered that the contentious land has been bought by SUDA from the housing board for Rs.50 million, but the transfer documents have not yet been handed over though the deal had been inked a year ago.

Ignoring all glitches, the Goa cabinet cleared the academy project at the insistence of Alemao. The GFA president, however, said that there was no problem over the land and they were examining how much job opportunities the project can create for the locals.

“There is no doubt that the academy will come up here. It is the decision of the Goa cabinet and no individual can change it,” said Alemao.

Asked to comment on the claims by Pacheco, a miffed Alemao refused to answer any further question.

No senior AIFF official is even willing to concede that there are hiccups and. Its president Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi announced in Kolkata this week that the proposed academy was well on its way and a formal announcement would be made in a day or two.

The AIFF president said he would talk on the subject on his return to New Delhi, but secretary-general Alberto Colaco says there is no problem with the academy.

“You think there is some problem with the academy? I think there is no problem with it at all,” he said.

The Bharatis, who were to make a power-point presentation to the stakeholders of the Goa academy, are waiting to hear from the AIFF — and from Goa.

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