Concrete slab in middle of Pune’s ‘home’ football ground a red-card offence
The Dobarwadi ground near Sopan baug is listed under the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) as a “public space”.
For the last two years, a mutual understanding between the Pune District Football Association (PDFA) and the PMC has allowed the football association to conduct its annual football league on the Dobarwadi ground.
A lease for the ground signed between the PDFA and the PMC expired two years ago and has not been renewed.
On Thursday morning, two teams playing the (PFDA) league, Central Railway Pune and City Police, took the ground to play a first division match, only to find a cricket pitch laid in the middle of the ground. A concrete slab with markings for the stumps.
The annual Subroto Cup and ZP football tournaments, both for boys and girls, take place on the Dobarwadi ground as well.
Now, Pune’s only “home ground” for competitive football has a concrete slab bang in the middle.
Secretary of the PDFA, Pradip Pardeshi, says, “The concrete pitch was laid down two days ago without permission of the PDFA or the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC).”
Tushar Kadgal, an expert mason working in the area confirms this. “It takes at least 24 hours for concrete to settle and solidify properly. So, this slab is definitely two days old.”
“Since we do not own the ground, we cannot say anything, but we cannot risk shutting divisional football down in the city,” said Pardeshi.
“The PDFA will demolish the pitch. It is an obvious hinderance on the pitch,” said a Central Railway player, requesting anonymity.
“Players had to worry about the concrete surface. We were avoiding that part of the ground because we did not want our players to slip and injure themselves,” said a Pune Police player, also requesting anonymity.
Action, action, action
Surprise, shock and dismay was the reaction from stakeholders at the PMC
PMC sports officer Kishori Shinde said, “We are clueless about the concrete slab. How was the work carried out without PMC permission? I will find out the details and initiate action.”
Prashant Jagtap, former mayor and sitting corporator from Wanowrie, under whose jurisdiction the ground falls, said, “It is wrong to erect a cement concrete pitch on the ground, which is reserved for football. I have spoken to regional ward officer Sanjay Gawade and instructed him to remove it immediately.”
Hadapsar MLA Chetan Tupe said, “PMC must identify who carried out this work on the football ground. Action should be taken against all concerned who are involved. PMC should ensure football matches happen smoothly.”
The PDFA matches have continued, however, a concrete slab in the middle creates a severe injury risk for players, apart from then being a ground which no football association anywhere in the world can sanction for use.
Pictures and videos of the ground have since gone viral on social media with repeated posts and retweets, and comments galore, mourning the state of football in the city,
“If we do not play here, we do not have any other ground to play on. Are there good grounds in Pune? If there are, they are not given to us. That is why we have stuck to Dobarwadi,” said the secretary of PDFA.
The PDFA league is Pune’s club football format spread over four divisions with 212 clubs involved. Divisions 1-4 play on Dobarwadi. The Super Division plays on another private ground because Dobarwadi is not good enough for that division standard.
Who laid the concrete slab? And why?
The Dobarwadi ground is hemmed in by a slum on three sides. On Friday morning, HT meets a group of youth from this area playing cricket on the pitch. After a severe cross-examination as to the reason for our visit, the youth agree to speak, if we guarantee their anonymity.
“Dobarwadi is our ground. We have been playing cricket in the corner of the ground for ages. Then, the football started and we were kicked out of the ground,” said a 23-year-old spokesperson for the group.
“PDFA does not have any authority over the ground. The ground is not only for football, it is a playground where we can play any sports. We only discovered this recently,” says another youth.
“A few people who love to play cricket came here and laid down the pitch. People from the locality are happy. In few days you will also see people playing kabaddi here as well,” is all the group is willing to say about who laid the pitch.
“We are not against football, things can run mutually, but people from the locality have not been treated well,” says a 16-year-old from the group.