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Faultlines in mega football show

sports Updated: Oct 22, 2011 01:11 IST
Somshuvra Laha

Almost one-third of the I-League matches this season will be played on artificial turf suited only for amateur football. That’s because the one installed at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan here in August 2009 was downgraded to a one-star facility this month after the West Bengal government, which owns the stadium, didn’t apply for a re-certification.

Berated for causing discomfort due to the heat it generates and blamed for muscle injuries even when it had a Fifa two-star rating, the latest turn of events could cause heartburn among players and coaches. The stadium in Salt Lake, a Kolkata suburb, where Lionel Messi’s Argentina played Venezuela in a Fifa-approved friendly on September 2 this year, will host 52 of the 182 I-League matches this season.

All about stars
Fifa’s norms stipulate that a two-star turf has to apply for re-certification every year to ensure the highest quality but the state government was unaware of this.

Hindustan Times reported in June 2010 how Fifa had originally awarded the turf a one-star rating.

According to the Fifa manual on turf quality, a one-star facility is best suited for amateur football.

The state government then re-applied and in November 2010 issued a circular declaring that the turf had been upgraded to two-star one after retests. “The reason why the field is now classed as a Fifa recommended one-star installation is that a re-certification has not been carried out so far,” Fifa replied to HT through an e-mail earlier this month.

“A Fifa recommended two-star pitch, according to the Fifa artificial turf manual, has to be re-certified every year in order to guarantee the highest quality of artificial turf for the professional level."

However if the field owner doesn’t want to re-certify the field then the installation is downgraded to a one-star pitch automatically which is the highest quality level for amateur football,” the statement said.

That means Yuba Bharati Krirangan’s artificial turf was a two-star facility till October 3 this year.

In the dark
Reacting to this, state sport minister Madan Mitra said: “Firstly, I was not the minister when this turf was installed. And secondly, I’m not aware of these technical procedures.

“But the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and the Indian Football Association (IFA) are and they should look into these matters.”

However, both the AIFF and Fieldturf Tarkett, manufacturers of the turf, said it’s the government’s responsibility to get in touch with them to get the retest done by Fifa. “To my knowledge, the AIFF hasn’t received any such request,” said I-League CEO Sunando Dhar, speaking from New Delhi on Friday. “I would assume it’s the state government’s responsibility. But if there’s a procedure regarding this, it should have been followed.”

Fieldturf managing director Anil Kumar also said they hadn’t received any request from the state government till Friday.

Minister’s promise
But Mitra retorted by saying Fieldturf officials didn’t bring it to his notice during their visit to the stadium a month ago. “They came to see the turf but said nothing about retests. Now that I’m aware of this, we will try and take all the necessary precautions,” said Mitra.