| Rainbow Football Club players during a warm-up session at a government school ground in Phulwarisharif. Telegraph picture |
The Messis, Ronaldos and Gerrards of Patna and the entire state are craving for football grounds and necessary support from the authorities to keep the game alive in their homeland.
Of the nearly 400 clubs registered with Bihar Football Association (BFA), very few have access to proper football grounds, which in turn, keep them deprived of regular practice.
Grounds apart, there are only 20 certified coaches in the state, which are available for proper grooming of the budding footballers.
As a result of the apathy to the game, except C. Prasad, an Arjuna awardee, no other male footballer from Bihar has made it to the senior national team.
Women from the state, however, seem more dedicated to soccer as they have made significant participation in the national team.
BFA secretary Imtiyaz Hussain said Ansha from Narkitayaganj, Supriya Samal, Kamla Devi and N. Chanu from Hajipur division of East Central Railway (ECR) and Pinki Gompal from ECR Danapur are in the senior women's national team. Shayama Rani from Munger is the captain of national level girls' under-14 team.
In the state capital, 35 clubs are registered with Patna Football Association, including Food Corporation of India, AG office, Bihar Regimental Centre, Raj Milk Boys and Patna Police among others.
With the opening of FIFA World Cup 2014 slated to be held in Itaquerao stadium in Sao Paulo, on Thursday, The Telegraph caught up with two football clubs in Patna to gauge the enthusiasm about the biggest sports extravaganza among the budding footballers from the city.
Rainbow Football Club
Established in 2002, the Kankerbagh-based Rainbow Football Club derived its name from the erstwhile Rainbow ground, which is now seen with Pataliputra Sports Complex. Jai Kumar Singh, coach and manager of Rainbow FC, claimed that though they have been playing at the ground since late ‘90s they are not being allowed to play in the under-construction football ground of the sports complex.
“After repeated requests, we were finally allowed to practise in an open area in front of the indoor stadium from August last year. We do our daily practice in this small area using a portable goalpost from 6 to 9 in the morning. However, we are apprehensive that even this small space would be taken from us after some time,” said Jai Kumar.
There are around 25 players in the senior team of Rainbow FC and around 35 in the junior team.
The membership charge of Rainbow FC is Rs 1,000 per person for one year, which covers availability of around 8-10 footballs, jerseys, cones and other equipment required for practising. However, there is no surety of the ground as they are left with no other option than to play in any available ground in the city like Mithilesh Stadium, Moinul Haque Stadium, and Patna and Science College grounds.
Hardcore soccer enthusiast Abhishek Sharma (19), who just passed his Class XII and a member of Rainbow FC, does not consider football as a serious career option.
“Cricket has always acquired the centre stage in this country and football has been mostly ignored. Thus, it is kind of risky as of now to take football as a career option but after I would start earning, I would dedicate a significant part from it for strengthening soccer club culture in Patna and promoting the game among the youths here,” said Abhishek, an ardent supporter of Real Madrid and Portugal.
Sporting Patna Football Club
Sheikhpura-based Sporting Patna FC, on the other hand, is a new kid on the block, formed in 2011 by four school-going children - Pranjal Singh Rathore, Pranjal Singh, Yash Ranjan and Aditya Dubey. Even today, all 30-35 members of Patna FC are less than 20 years old. Patna FC does not have a proper football ground, thus they use grounds such as a ground behind Bihar Military Police headquarters or the ground at Jai Prabha Blood Bank at Kankerbagh.
“We formed this club when we were in school as we could not find any good platform for organised football in the city. Still today, there is hardly and infrastructure or support from the authorities but from our end only, we are trying to keep the game alive in the city. We do not charge anything for membership and we just see whether a boy has the potential to be a good footballer. They bring their own jerseys and other accessories and we train them at any available ground,” said Pranjal Singh, a student of Class XI.