Hailakandi, May 9: The turnout and the facilities in Silchar’s Satindra Mohan Dev stadium, the only full-fledged sports infrastructure in Assam’s Barak Valley, has drawn the attention of the Assam Football Association (AFA) as a potential venue for bigger professional events.
The turnout of over 20,000 people during the Friendship Cup match between Mohun Bagan Athletic Club of Calcutta and Shillong Lajong Football Club on May 1 was testimony to football’s following in south Assam.
AFA secretary Ankur Dutta, who was present during the match, told The Telegraph that he was excited to see the enthusiasm of the crowd in a place like Silchar. Dutta said his notion that football was losing popularity in Assam, particularly in the Barak Valley, had changed completely.
Nearly 10,000 people turned up for the first-division football tournament final in Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose stadium in Hailakandi last year. The stadium in Silchar has already organised several official events like matches of Santosh Trophy, Federation Cup and I-league. The first women’s football matches were organised in Silchar involving teams from Manipur and Mizoram in 1976. National-level exhibition football matches were also organised in 1980. Satindra Mohan Dev stadium not only has a good ground and galleries but also the other facilities like proper dressing rooms, floodlights of 2,000 lux, a swimming pool and other facilities necessary for professional football venue.
Dutta stressed the need for grooming footballers from the grassroots level. He emphasised the need for organising rural football championships frequently. “The Barak valley has two good stadiums — Silchar and Hailakandi. Both may be utilised for soccer,” Anamika Sen, a spectator, said after the Bagan-Lajong match in Silchar.
The president of District Sports Association (DSA) Silchar, Badal Dey, said in the fifties, the Barak Valley was treated as “nursery of Assam football”. He said many national-level footballers were produced from there. Subhas Rai, Gulidam Rongmei, Debashis Roy and Arup Das were products of Barak Valley and all of them played in India’s junior national team, he added. Gulidam was a player from Sporting Club of Silchar.
Dey said the AFA was first constituted in 1946 at Habiganj in undivided Bengal with Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed as the president and former Mohun Bagan captain B. Roy Choudhury as secretary but he lamented that the AFA does not recognise it.