Football enthusiasts in the city stress the need for better facilities and world-class infrastructure to boost the game.
While Mumbai has several stadiums and excellent facilities for cricket, football has been neglected. In comparison, Goa has three football stadiums that have been built in the past two decades, all of which have better facilities than the Cooperage Ground, Mumbai’s sole football stadium.
The Cooperage ground can host 12,000 spectators. Temporary stands, which were erected for the Rover’s Cup, cost approximately Rs 30 lakh annually. Mobile toilets are deployed at such times. Outstation teams are accommodated in nearby hotels during the Rover’s Cup at an additional cost. The annual budget of the Western India Football Association (WIFA) is Rs 2.5 crore.
The original budget for the redevelopment plan was Rs 65 crore, which was to be raised from several multinational companies according to WIFA assistant secretary Wali Mohammed. To address the concerns raised by the Oval Cooperage Residents Association (OCRA), a new plan, with a budget upwards of Rs 100 crore, was drawn up. The new plan also included an underground car park that can accommodate 500 cars. Mohammed refused to divulge how the cash-strapped WIFA intends to raise money. “We have Praful Patel on our side and the source of the funds is a secret,” he said.
“A football stadium is needed in Mumbai. If international matches and big tournaments are played here, football will get the attention it needs and the youth interest in it will increase. This will produce better football talent in the city and the country,” said Mohammed.
Incidentally, the Cooperage also does not meet the norms to host the country’s premier competition, the I-League matches. But the AIFF (All India Football Federation) has reluctantly permitted WIFA permission to conduct the home matches of the Mumbai I-League clubs at the Cooperage ground.
While the OCRA has no objection to building of an international football stadium, they feel that the best location for such a space is on the outskirts of the city instead of a crowded residential area, said a senior member of the OCRA who spoke on the condition of anonymity.