The promised exhibition match in memory of late sports minister Subhas Chakraborty ahead of competitive stuff on the new synthetic surface at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan did not happen. The match that would raise funds for Aila victims can still happen later, but part of its significance, which is purely football has been lost.
It could have been an eye-opener for the organisers, who still do not have an idea of how a synthetic surface behaves. Despite that, they have scheduled the knockout matches of the 114th IFA Shield there, beginning with the semi-final between Air India and Churchill Brothers at 3 pm. It's already very hot and humid and synthetic surfaces retain a lot more heat than natural turfs.
Teams that have trained on the surface are hoping it rains during matches, which should bring down the ground temperature a bit. But they are also sceptical that if it doesn't rain for long the humidity would go up a few notches and it could result in players getting cramps. Chances of that too are higher on a synthetic surface.
There is another concern. Minute granules of rubber are coming out of the surface like dust and are sticking to the body and ball when the surface is wet. Chirag United, who trained in the morning before Air India, had midfielder Jayanta Sen getting treated on the sidelines after a granule went into his eye.
Air India did not have anything similar happening to any of their players, but coach Bimal Ghosh was criticised the time of start, especially on artificial turf. “A 3pm start in Indian conditions is difficult anywhere. It's going to be all the more taxing on the boys on this surface,” he said after an hour-long session.