Ground problems continue to plague I-League football

September 24th, 2008 - 6:50 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 24 (IANS) With just two days left for the second edition of the I-League to start, the age-old problem of quality grounds has returned to haunt Indian football. This time Mumbai has been hit hard due to the poor condition of the Cooperage Stadium and it seems that Delhi and Pune are in the race to host its matches as neutral venues.

In the past few editions, Kolkata grounds were a headache for All India Football Federation (AIFF).

This time with three Mumbai teams - Mumbai FC, Mahindra United and Air India - in fray, Mumbai is set to host 33 matches. And the AIFF is struggling to find a suitable ground as the Cooperage Stadium, whose redevelopment plans have been stalled due to a court case, is not in a good shape.

AIFF president Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi Wednesday accepted that the professional league, which is in its second year, is suffering due to the lack of infrastructure.

“This time we are having problems of hosting matches at the Cooperage because the ground is not in a good shape. We have allotted first two matches at the Cooperage and if we are satisfied, then we will take a decision where to host the remaining of the Mumbai matches,” Dasmunsi told reporters here.

Mahindra United’s home game against Kolkata’s Chirag United Oct 4 and the derby between Mahindra and newly promoted Mumbai FC Oct 11 are the only two matches given to Cooperage till now.

Dasmunsi also added that the D.Y. Patil Sports Complex in Navi Mumbai, which hosted the Indian Premier League (IPL) matches, is still being negotiated as an alternative to the Cooperage. Within the state, Kolhapur, which hosted the second division of the I-League also stands a chance to host the matches.

The D.Y. Patil Sports Complex authorities are charging Rs.1.2 million to host a match, but the amount exceeds AIFF’s budget.

“The authorities of the D.Y. Patil Sports Complex were charging a huge amount per match. But our senior vice-president Praful Patel is negotiating with them so that we get the ground at a reasonable cost,” Dasmunsi said.

The Western India Football Association (WIFA) officials hoped that the Cooperage Stadium will be able to host all the home matches of the Mumbai teams.

“We accept that there are a few problems but the turf is in an excellent shape,” WIFA assistant secretary Wali Mohammed told IANS.

Wali admitted that a case filed by Jamshed Kangra, a former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, is lying in the Bombay High Court and that is also a reason why WIFA was not able to redevelop the ground.

“The case which was filed against the redevelopment plan three years back is in the Bombay High Court. For that we can’t do any construction work here but still the existing facilities are good enough to host the matches,” he added.

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