|Jorhat Stadium. Telegraph picture
Jorhat, Sept. 24: The golden jubilee celebrations of one of the oldest football tournaments in the Northeast, the Assam Tea Planters’ Association (ATPA) Shield, will have to wait for another year because of the delay in preparation of the turf at Jorhat Stadium here.
This is the third time in four years that the tournament, which began in 1955, is going to be cancelled owing to renovation of the stadium, which began four years back. The ATPA Shield, which usually takes place in September-October every year, was cancelled in 2010, the year in which the golden jubilee edition was supposed to be held and in 2012 because of renovation and other groundwork at the stadium.
The tournament is the third oldest existing tournament in the state after Independence Day Cup (being held in Nagaon since 1949) and Lokapriya Bordoloi Trophy Tournament (being held in Guwahati since 1952).
The Jorhat District Sports Association, which has been organising the tournament since 1968, had somehow managed to host the 50th edition of the tournament after hurriedly repairing the dug-up ground in 2011. JDSA general secretary Amal Baruah said the celebrations planned for the golden jubilee edition were shelved and only teams from within the state were involved in the 50th edition owing to funds constraints and poor turf quality. The next year, it was the same story with the construction of galleries and continuing ground development work.
“This year, we were planning to celebrate the golden jubilee edition in a big way, but we have been compelled to give up all such plans for now,” he said. Another JDSA office-bearer said this year the tournament could have been held had the “carpet grass”, which was part of the project proposal, been laid on time. “It was in April that the carpet grass seeds should have been sown, but because of drying up of funds and some other constraints, the contract was not allotted to anyone,” he said. The Assam Agricultural University had been asked to prepare an estimate, which they had done, the office-bearer added.
“The present Jorhat Stadium Development Committee, headed by deputy commissioner V. Solanki, had asked a contractor in July to plant the grass at his own cost and that the proposal would be presented and funds could be managed,” he said. The task to oversee this was given to additional deputy commissioner, planning, A. Chaliha.
Chaliha confirmed that Ujal Borah, a contractor, was willing to do the work if assured that the money would be paid from any source like the untied fund or the MLA local area development fund. Local MLA Rana Goswami is the president of JDSA.
AAU agronomist J. Deka said the university had prepared a plan of an estimate amount of Rs 6-7 lakh and that they were to oversee the technical side of things. “The doob grass of slightly thicker variety and better binding quality can be planted after uprooting all the grass and spraying weedicides a couple of times. This should have been planted in April during the rainy season so that the grass could have grown,” he said.
Ujal Borah, the contractor, said he was working on it despite not having a contract and it would take about a month. “The grass has to be brought in trucks from Bangalore and this has been done but the field has to be planned and all the other grass removed before planting,” he said. The upgradation plan involved an outlay of Rs 4.18 crore under which the concrete galleries and a part of the wall has been constructed besides other infrastructure development, earth filling and drainage. Sources, however, pointed out that the drainage did not comprise the geo-piping network, which is mandatory nowadays for holding national level football and cricket matches. Though the contractor concerned has opted for grass grown in nurseries outside the state, curators from across the country prefer the Assam variety of doob grass, the best after the Bermuda Selection No 1 variety for all kinds of turfs in the state’s climate condition.
In the early years, teams like Calcutta giants Mohammedan Sporting and Mohun Bagan, Port Authority of Thailand, Bangkok and Royal Nepal Airlines participated in the ATPA Shield, besides leading teams from across the Northeast.