PDFA referees were seen without matching kits while conducting the league matches at Dobarwadi ground on January 15. There is a growing need for a referees’ association in the city, say sports lovers.(HT/PHOTO)
PDFA referees were seen without matching kits while conducting the league matches at Dobarwadi ground on January 15. There is a growing need for a referees’ association in the city, say sports lovers.(HT/PHOTO)

Your space: It’s the final whistle for Poona District Football Association management, say stakeholders

A total of 212 football clubs across four divisions are contesting the Poona District Football Association’s (PDFA) football league. PDFA has increased registration fees for each division, but facilities are still a long way off from what the sport needs. This is the heart of grassroots football. What does PDFA need to do to lift the sport? What do you believe is the answer to the question football is asking of the city - how ready are you to play at the top level?
Hindustan Times, Pune | By HT Correspondent
UPDATED ON JAN 27, 2020 04:36 PM IST

PDFA management needs to change

It is a strong association from a city perspective. There are several pros and cons in the organisation. Back when I used to play, there was a lot of football being played mainly because there were active people sitting in the committee who wanted to do something about football. There are certain things which have been done from the right perspective, but I think the biggest flaw is that the secretary and the vice-president have been in the office for a long time. It is time for the PDFA to bring about a little change. There are elections for the members, but who is auditing these secretive elections? Their governance is not transparent. To some extent, I believe even WIFA has been complacent. I know for a fact that there was a proposal to the PDFA to let Dobarwadi run privately. The ground would have been in a much better condition right now, but the proposal was rejected mainly because of the secretary of the PDFA, who runs his own academy. Certain people are placing their personal interests before football. The change in the management of the PDFA is at a critical stage and it has to happen now. After all these years, forget the grass, the Dobarwadi ground should at least have been level and solid. From a facilities point of view, the PDFA is lagging way behind. I have seen u-17 games not start because there was no ambulance near the ground. The PDFA should also start looking for local sponsors who will be ready to sponsor kits and balls for the matches so kids do not have to bring their own. Most importantly, the PDFA definitely needs fresher and younger heads if football has to grow in Pune.

- ex-VOBA player

Presence of referees’ association must

I believe there are too many games scheduled at one ground. Three divisions play on the same ground and sometimes it gets a little congested. However, this season at least, we should not blame the PDFA for the scheduling because the start of the league was already delayed due to the unexpected rains. The rains wrecked the ground too, but the PDFA levelled it up before the start of the season. Right now, the ground is good, but it is not the best one to play on. Apart from that, to take Pune’s football in the right direction, the referees have to be more responsible and the presence of a Referees’ Association, which is run by the most experienced referee, is a must. I would also encourage PDFA to host more tournaments this year, so that divisional teams get some quality time on the pitch. Other than that, with invitational tournaments, they have been quite supportive and allowed us to host and participate in invitational tournaments.

- Paresh Shivalkar, played for Pune FC in the I-League and currently plays for PDFA’s first division team, Game of Goals (GOG) FC

Making a mountain out of a molehill

If we were wrong, a majority of the 212 clubs would have a problem with PDFA and would have raised their voice against the problems. However, there are just four-five clubs who are making a mountain out of a molehill for the past two years about the issues faced by them. They have even lodged cases against the PDFA, even after I advised them to invest their and PDFA’s money in football rather than the court. I am the chairman of the Thane District Football Association and the treasurer of the Western Indian Football Association (WIFA). I am doing quite a few things for football in Maharashtra, but certain people from some clubs are not ready to support me. I have even offered a seat on the committee to the people who have a problem with the way we are conducting the league, but none of them wants to take responsibility. I do not understand the fuss about a referees’ association because there is no association as such in the entire state. There is just one association for referees in the state and that is in Mumbai and it functions under WIFA. Apart from that, there are no referee associations in any district.

- Pyarelal Choudhary, vice-president of the Pune District Football Association

Connect with club, transparency lacking

It is true that there are five clubs who are openly raising their voice against the wrongdoings of the PDFA, but that does not mean that the other clubs are happy with the management. The other clubs are just afraid to voice their concerns openly because if someone does that, the PDFA will impose bans on these clubs or will not select kids for divisional championships from those teams, without any justification. The connect with the clubs and the transparency is lacking. The PDFA does not respond to our letters, phone calls or e-mails. They refuse to give us an audit report which is supposed to be shared with all the clubs every year. The PDFA should understand that this is nothing personal. If they are able to up the quality of football, we will all be extremely happy. If they follow the rules, make the ground better, arrange for proper balls and ballboys and get the PDFA ambulance to the ground, we will be extremely happy. Now, the ball is in their court and it is high time they started showing some care and respect for all the clubs.

- Sohan Singh, secretary of Strikers FC

Tournaments should be on natural surface, not AstroTurf

I really appreciate the effort taken by the PDFA to organise a league exclusively for kids. It will enhance the experience for the kids and improve the level of football. I hope we see more tournaments like this preferably on a natural surface and not on an AstroTurf, which is being used for the Pune Youth League this season. At this age, the kids do not realise the difference between playing on an artificial turf and on a natural turf. However, scientifically, it has been proven how bad the AstroTurf could be for the joints and ligaments of players once they start growing up. As a coach, I would never encourage my team to play regularly on an AstroTurf. Apart from this, I am really excited about the women’s league to kick-off. We have not been notified about the ground or the dates on which it will commence, but I am really looking forward to playing in the PDFA’s Women’s League. The draws were made, but the PDFA said there will be changes in it, so we are just patiently waiting for the secretary or vice-president to give us a final update.

- Naomi Vase, coach, Sports Excel

City needs multiple grounds

We need multiple grounds that comply with international standards. We don’t need stadiums with huge capacities, Pune needs an arena like the Cooperage or Duler Stadium. The PDFA should upgrade the existing leagues and market it in local schools and colleges to increase awareness. At present, there are many people who are aware of the divisional football tournament, but they do not know anything more than that. They should also try to attract spectators for these games. The games just go on and conclude without people even realising who the teams were or what division were they from. Spectators are a very important part of the game. In order to promote the league, they should tie up with sponsors or even some local personalities to hype it up. Apart from the promotions, they should also try and conduct regular courses or workshops for people who would like to pursue a career or hobby in coaching.

- Sanket Revadekar, local football enthusiast

Needs training camps at schools

The PDFA needs to have initiatives at the grassroots level. Apart from the youth league, they should conduct training camps at the schools. We have kids from schools interested in football, but have no idea what to do. PDFA needs to connect with the players as well. There are no awareness sessions with the clubs and their players. What the PDFA is doing for the players to improve the sport, is not known to the players. As a footballer what motivates me is to know the road map of my growth as a player. As of today, no player in Pune knows what to do to reach the top and become an Indian national team player as the PDFA is not doing anything to connect with them.

- Sangram Khair, local football enthusiast

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