Guess what the artificial turf at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan is fit for? According to FIFA, it’s good for recreational, community and municipal use, not professional football.
The latest FIFA results based on tests conducted last October deem the turf at India’s largest football stadium (second largest in the world) unsuitable for the two-star ranking required for internationals. So far, the Yuba Bharati Krirangan is the only football stadium in India with artificial turf.
Manufactured by Fieldturf Tarkett, who also laid the artificial turf at Luzhniki Olympic Stadium in Moscow, the pitch was accorded one-star status for a four-year period till March 23, 2014.
According to FIFA recommended quality levels it is fit “mainly for recreational, community and municipal use” and not top-flight football for which the two-star rating is designed “specifically to mirror the playing characteristics of professional football.”
In the season that ended last week, three Kolkata teams shared the stadium as their home venue. That meant the bulk of the total 39 I League 3 matches Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Chirag United hosted were played on this park. Ditto East Bengal’s home matches in the AFC Cup, a continental tournament. At present the U-19 national championships for the Dr B.C. Roy Trophy is being held at the stadium.
Laid at an approximate cost of Rs 5 crore, the all-weather turf was a Bengal government project that ignored protests from top coaches and players and took off after the football season ended in 2009. The turf was prepared within a ‘record’ 97 days and inaugurated on August 24 last year. Within a fortnight, matches in the IFA Shield were hosted on this turf.
Fieldturf had then claimed the turf was fit for the two-star status and said they were seeking the same from FIFA.
After FIFA’s evaluation, the turf may now be labelled unfit for professional football. Asked what went wrong, a top Fieldturf official, who didn’t want to be named, refused comment and directed inquiries to the state government.
“It would be inappropriate to comment without getting to know the technical details of the matter,” state sports secretary Raghvendra Singh told HT on Saturday. Told about this, a member of the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) grounds sub-committee said on condition of anonymity: “With eight artificial turfs to be laid across the country as part of FIFA’s ‘Win in India with India’ project, Salt Lake stadium’s failure to get a two-star status sets a bad precedence for future inspections in the country. A two-star status is mandatory and that’s what we are aiming for in our FIFA project.”