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No grounds to contest experts’ offside call on sporting facilities

Despite hosting important matches in the past, city’s football stadiums are left neglected.

pune Updated: Jul 25, 2017 13:38 IST
Pranav Shahaney
The Balewadi Sports Complex has previously hosted international and national level leagues including ISL and I-League.
The Balewadi Sports Complex has previously hosted international and national level leagues including ISL and I-League.(HT PHOTO)

Pune is home to a number of sports and football is one of the games that is popular among the youngsters of the educational capital. From their young days in schools and colleges, kids are encouraged to take up the game and play for their respective educational institutions.

Even on a more professional level, the Pune district football association, commonly known as the PDFA, has a long-running league which has seen a number of clubs. Academies from all parts of the city also register themselves to participate among the elite clubs that the district has on offer.

The clubs are constantly looking to add to their ranks and bolster their rosters for the seasons to come and rope in quality young players every year. Trials are held several times in a year for the top division sides, while mere registration proves to be sufficient to play in some teams from the lower divisions. Due to this league, budding footballers of the city are given a platform to express themselves and challenge for a spot in a rejuvenated national side that has broken into the top 100 of the FIFA World Rankings for the first time in over two decades.

Despite the talent possessed by the footballers in the city, in order to graduate to the next level, it is essential that they have the right facilities to train, and that they have the complete backing of their respective coaches and the bodies working towards producing new faces for the national team.

With four renowned and reputed football stadiums, the city of Pune is not short on venues, where matches of the top divisions take place. However, these stadiums are not in the best shape all year round, and are often spruced up days prior to an upcoming tournament to appeal as a half decent venue to the players and fans alike.

Shiv Chhatrapati sports complex stadium

Such is the case of the renowned Balewadi Sports Complex which is situated on the western side of Pune. A stadium that has been around for over 25 years, albeit under a different name, has hosted a number of sporting competitions in the past.

The stadium was home to the now defunct I-League clubs FC Pune City and Bharat FC, and has also proven to be a hospitable environment for the DSK Shivajians – the city’s only remaining I-League outfit. While it appears to be unblemished on the outside, there are a number of things that are contributing to the constant degradation of the stands and the pitch.

As it is a government-owned arena, it is often leased out for non-footballing occasions such as weddings and inaugurations. Music concerts have also taken place on the turf, which has certainly tarnished the sanctity of the grass and its cover. Erratic watering routines have seen the field dry up and slow down over the years, and is probably why the complex was overlooked by the AIFF and FIFA while deciding on the six venues to host the Under-17 World Cup later this year.

DSK Dream City, Majari

Shivajians have played at the Balewadi stadium for the past two seasons in the I-League, but they plan to relocate to their own facility in Manjri – over 30 kms away from their former home ground. Club CEO Shirish Kulkarni has stated that they are working towards building a proper stadium in their project termed ‘Dream City’, which has a couple of well-maintained eleven-a-side turfs.

He stated, “We have plans of developing the stadium and the required infrastructure at our Manjri DSK Dream City, but that will take two years at least. After that, the stadium there will host all of our I-League games.”

The Dream City project is a one of its own state of the art facility on the outskirts of Pune. Located off the Pune-Solapur highway, it spreads over 300 acres of land, on which both residential as well as commercial properties are present.

Focussing particularly on the footballing affairs, each and every registered academy player on the Shivajians roster is provided a fully-furnished room for staying complemented with exemplary gymnasium facilities. There are physicians constantly working on the health and well-being of each player and their training routines are second to none.

When it comes to the condition of the pitches, the Shivajians hierarchy takes utmost care that they stay in good condition throughout the year. For that, the 4G astro turfs as well as the natural grass turfs have a unique sub-soil drainage system that safeguards the pitch from all the perils of weather change.

Bhartiya Vidyapeeth, Dhankwadi

Another training facility which is set up at Bhartiya Vidyapeeth is popular among the enthusiasts of the game in the city. AIFF recognised clubs have often set up training camps and fan encouragement programmes in the campuses of the university founded by Patangrao Kadam.

Named the Abhijit Kadam Football Development Centre (AKFDC), the establishment helps students of various age groups to undergo international level training from a number of FA certified coaches that work diligently on moulding stars for the future.

The sessions particularly last for an hour and focus only on one key aspect of the game. For example, if the coaches decide to work on the passing, the students will be put through varied passing drills for the entire sixty minutes, with the coaches constantly encouraging the youngsters.

The facilities at the AKFDC may not be the best compared to the top names in the city, but they are suitable for school and college going kids that have an undying love and adulation for the game of football. They are exposed to various tactical nuances of modern-day football in lecture rooms with projectors. A well-equipped gym is also set up for them to work on their fitness and they have sports science specialists monitoring every variation they undergo while weights and free body training.

PDFA ground, Dobarwadi

With Pune being the educational capital of India, it’s needless to say that there are a number of schools and colleges within the city limits. Football is one game that is popular among students, and the matches they play for their educational institution are usually held at the Dobarwadi ground which is next to Sopan Baug.

The turf here isn’t like the aforementioned trio as the matches are played on mud with no cover of grass. Due to the frequent use of the ground, it is watered from regularly, but isn’t guarded from outsiders who visit and play, thus affecting the pitch conditions. Often herbivores too, are seen feeding on the weeds and small plants beyond the touchline.

Thus, it is important for the AIFF and the PDFA to look after these turfs and do all they can to make better facilities available for footballers in the city. While many European clubs are bringing their academies to Pune, it is the duty of government organisations to live up to the optimum standards and ensure that the pitches can be comparable to the ones in foreign countries that we watch on our television sets.

CITY’S MAJOR FOOTBALL STADIUMS

• The Balewadi Sports Complex, with a capacity of over 11000 seats, has hosted a total of six football clubs since 2010, including Air India and Mumbai FC.

• DSK Dream City is expected to be the venue for DSK Shivajians’ home games in next year’s I-League with star attractions such as Sunil Chhetri, Subrata Pal and Eugeneson Lyngdoh set to visit on their away fixtures.

• The PDFA leased 3.5 acres of land in 2009 in Dobarwadi to set up a playing surface for their league, which is currently being used by the Zilla Parishad to organise their matches at the school and college level. Its construction cost was Rs. 75 lakhs.