Kids practise on the floodlit Avenue Sammilani grounds. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
The city has a new floodlit football facility where aspiring Messis and Ronaldos who seldom get time to put boot to ball during the day can practise after sundown.
The illuminated patch of green off Rabindra Sarobar stadium may be no bigger than a pitch for a five-a-side game, but has served as a nursery for Maidan footballers for four decades. The playground belongs to Avenue Sammilani club.
“A lot of kids are busy during the day: some have to attend tuition classes right after school, others have to help their parents. All these kids can now practise after dusk,” said Chandan Pal Chowdhury, an official of the club, which was established in 1942 and started football coaching from 1971.
“The dropout rate of youngsters with talent will certainly go down at our club,” he asserted.
The club has produced national players such as Subhash Bhowmick, Sukalyan Ghosh Dastidar, Prashanta Banerjee, Shyamal Ghosh and Tushar Rakshit.
“When organisations come forward to support a cause, the result can be wonderful. We could not have installed these expensive floodlights, costing lakhs. With corporate support, everything happened in a flash,” said Babul Bose, the club’s football secretary.
Chowdhury said the floodlights were put up almost by chance. “Mudar Patherya (the head of Trisys Communications) had come over to speak to us about something else. He casually mentioned that it would be great if floodlights could be installed on our practice field. We told him that we had always wanted lights but could not afford them,” he said.
Patherya approached Philips, which he knew has a policy of helping social causes. The company sent engineers to the club, who said the field needed 24 light bulbs fitted on six poles. Philips offered a big discount on the price of the lights when it learnt about the illustrious history of the club, which includes former general secretary Ashok Guha (Babu)’s lifetime award from FIFA for his contribution to the academy and football.
Help also came from the civic agency, which provided the poles free, and pastry chain Monginis.
“We ensured that there would be 300 lux of milky white light on the pitch and no spillover to avoid light pollution as far as possible,” said Vikas Rana, light application design manager with Philips.
“We would like to take up more such projects if we get to know of deserving organisations because we do allocate funds for CSR (corporate social responsibility) activities,” he added.
The floodlights were inaugurated during the final of a football tournament for veterans on Sunday.
Former India goalie Kanai Sarkar, who has been associated with Sammilani for years, said what set the club apart were the atmosphere and the coaches, including Tapan Jyoti Mitra, Biswajit Das and Arjuna Award-winner Shanti Mullick.
The coaches are happy with the current crop of 160 trainees, including the most well-known among them, Arjun Chatterjee, who plays for Mohun Bagan.
Many of the youngsters live in the districts or city outskirts and have to wake up at the crack of dawn to catch a train to Calcutta to practise.
“We have come a long way from the time when we had just a couple of footballs to practice,” Chowdhury said.