Football stadium without a goal

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By RITH BASU AND SUSHOVAN SIRCAR
  • Published 28.06.11
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The lone goal in the stadium with one of its posts propped up on bricks (circled in red). Pictures by Anindya Shankar Ray
The flooded passage to the
players’ rooms and gym
The swimming pool at Kishore Bharati Stadium.
The damaged roof of the stadium office

Kishore Bharati Stadium can lay claim to be the worst maintained sporting complex in the state. The once picturesque ground that hosted Calcutta Football League matches between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal till about a decade ago seems almost abandoned now.

“Top teams used to play here. But as the facilities started deteriorating, the IFA stopped allotting even matches between minnows to the ground,” said stadium caretaker Asit Roy.

The condition of the stadium has worsened since. “The main reason behind the withdrawal of matches was the absence of a proper club house and changing rooms,” said former sports minister Kanti Ganguly, who is also the chairman of the Board of Management for Jadavpur Stadium, which owns the ground. He blamed funds shortage for the state of the stadium.

So what goes on in this 13-acre complex, commissioned in the late 1980s? Nothing by way of competitive sports. Sixty boys belonging to an academy called Purba Jadavpur Antar Sangha Sammelani and local youths have free access to the ground. A martial arts training centre also operates on the premises.

Halls on the ground and first floors of the stadium office used to be rented out for ceremonies but that stopped two years ago because the building is falling apart.

There used to be three godowns on the premises. When they were vacated, Akash Bangla rented them for shoots, paying the board Rs 1,02,000 per month. The channel has discontinued the agreement this month, cutting off the stadium’s only source of income.

According to Ganguly, even with a monthly income of Rs 1 lakh, the board could hardly maintain the ground, let alone develop it.

Pitch

The football field is undulating and anyone trying to run on it risks twisting his ankle. One of the goals is broken and lies dumped on the sidelines amid overgrowth and tree trunks cut for the extension of the galleries. Bricks and bamboo poles prop up a metal post of the other goal.

The quality of the grass, which has grown only in patches, is better than at the Rabindra Sarobar stadium, also in a poor state.

“The pitch is in this condition mainly because the authorities used to fill the holes that developed on the playing surface with white sand instead of good soil. Grass stopped growing on those portions,” said Paritosh Das, who has been coaching at the academy for 23 years.

A sandpit that is in the process of being covered by grass suggests that track and field events used to be held here at some point.

Dressing room & gym

The players’ room, gym and other facilities below the galleries were under ankle deep water on Thursday evening even though the walkway outside was dry. “The rooms under the gallery are below the ground level, so they get flooded during the rainy season,” said caretaker Roy.

A railing separating the stadium from a wide canal outside fell into the water body two years ago. The authorities have to rebuild it to ensure spectator safety before matches can be played here. A broken bathtub next to the entrance and styrofoam plates are the other eyesores on the premises.

Gallery and club house

There are plants growing out of the moss-covered stands. People take siestas and couples cosy up on the galleries. Despite matches no longer being organised at the stadium and the pitch being in a sorry state, a project was undertaken in January 2010 to increase the number of galleries. It was completed in a year.

Work on a two-storeyed club house and players rooms, which started in November 2009, has not progressed since the recent Assembly elections.

Ganguly said: “A budget of Rs 5 crore had been allotted for the project, under which the stadium will get 400 beds and a modern conference room.”

A stadium official said: “The previous government apparently wanted to finish the new club house and gallery and inaugurate the stadium afresh. But work progressed slowly and when they saw that the deadline could not be met, they lost interest.”

Swimming pool

A few metres away from the main stadium is a swimming pool of international standards: about 50m long and 10ft deep with eight lanes. It is used for recreational activities instead of competitive ones.

The area was leased to Macintosh Burn, a private construction company in 2007. The responsibility of the pool’s maintenance and development was later handed over to Samar and Samar Infrastructure.

The complex, inaugurated by former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee, has around 700 members, who pay Rs 1,800 per season to swim during specified time slots.

Despite modern facilities, the pool has neither hosted a major tournament nor is accessible to young athletes. “There are provisions for hosting competitions but no such event has been held yet,” admitted Sanjib Ghosh, director, Samar and Samar Infrastructure.

An annual swimming competition for the disabled used to be held here till 2010.

“The main reason behind the lack of tournaments is the absence of accommodation facilities,” said Ganguly.