Guwahati, March 12: At a time when a little effort of the Mizoram government in laying three artificial turfs helped the state annex the coveted Santosh Trophy football title, sports continue to take the backseat in the priority list of Block F-G in the Assam secretariat.
The finance department has been the biggest hurdle the sports department has faced while executing chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s directives in clearing appointments of nearly 40 coaches under the Sports Authority of Assam (SAA) or in improving Sarusajai sports complex for the proposed IMG-Reliance-sponsored Indian Super League football tournament.
The chief minister had ordered the upgrade of the sports complexes on a war footing as the first edition of the league is scheduled between September and December this year. But the SAA and the directorate of sports have been kept busy for last four months answering a series of queries. These include whether SAA director-general is authorised to sign the memorandum of understanding (MoU) with IMG-Reliance or how would Assam benefit by hosting the league.
Sources in the sports department said the finance department’s queries followed a requisition of a petty amount of Rs 12.5 crore in December last year for the renovation of the turf, enhancement of floodlights and upgrade of certain facilities agreed upon in the MoU.
“With barely three months left as promised in the MoU, even the sanction of funds would have enabled SAA to engage contractors to execute the upgrade work. This is vital not only to retain the IMG-Reliance league but also to be in contention as a venue for the 2017 under-17 Fifa World Cup,” a senior sports department official told The Telegraph.
A Fifa delegation is also scheduled to check the infrastructure in October this year for re-assessment for the 2017 mega event. Based on the MoU, IMG-Reliance has already floated tender notice for sale of franchise team in Guwahati along with eight other cities. If the infrastructure part is not taken care of as promised in the MoU within the stipulated time, the city might even lose the chance of owning a team.
Assam Football Association secretary Ankur Dutta said, “We are thankful to the chief minister for his initiative in impressing upon the Fifa that Guwahati deserved to be a venue for the 2017 event and his directives for the IMG-Reliance venture. However, the ball now lies in his own department — finance — without whose co-operation Gogoi’s dream of revolutionising sports in the state will never materialise.”