The Delhi Soccer Association's (DSA) bid to fill the Ambedkar Stadium by distributing free passes backfired as hundreds of ticket-holders were denied entry into an already packed venue to watch the final of the ONGC Nehru Cup football between defending champions India and Syria in New Delhi on Monday.
Though it was heartening to see some 20,000 fans pack the Ambedkar Stadium stands with seating capacity of 17,000, chaos prevailed as some 1000 fans were denied entry and police had to resort to baton charge to bring the crowd in control.
The DSA had to bear the blame for the situation as it had distributed passes and printed tickets far more than the capacity of the stadium.
An official told IANS that All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel was upset with the DSA's move and had asked his secretary to talk to the Delhi police commissioner to chalk out a security plan.
The DSA, however, was happy to see the packed house and did not mind losing out on gate money to see the stands filled for the Nehru Cup.
DSA secretary NK Bhatia said his association distributed thousands of passes in a bid to attract crowds, who till a decade or so ago regularly flocked the stadium to watch two of the country's most popular football tournaments, the Durand Cup and the DCM Trophy.
Bhatia told IANS that the DSA couldn't make much out of gate collection despite the fact that more than 75,000 spectators turned out for the five group matches and a full house on Monday.
"It is unfortunate that despite a good turnout we were not able to generate money from tickets. In Delhi there is no culture of buying tickets to watch sport so we had to print a lot of invitations and complimentary tickets instead of priced tickets. And the number of tickets sold were neiglible," Bhatia said.
"In the last three years, whenever the national team played we had a good crowd. Even in the 2007 edition more than three thousand people were stranded outside the stadium on the day of the final. And last year when the final of the AFC Challenge Cup was held here at a short notice we had a packed stadium. It is a good sign and hopefully it will be a big boost for the Durand Cup," he said.
The century-old Durand Cup, third oldest tournament in the world, has always attracted crowds but its popularity dipped after Kolkata clubs Mohun Bagan and East Bengal stayed away in the last two years.
This year both the clubs and seven I-League teams will take part in the Durand Cup, starting on Wednesday.