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Trampled-over pitch awaits Durand kick-off


The Olympics are over, and so is the concern for sports of the powers that be. What makes this plain is the decision of the authorities to detain a massive crowd at the Ambedkar Stadium that's scheduled to host India's oldest football tournament, Durand Cup, two days later, from August 16.


As a result, the stadium, already drenched by monsoon rain, is not in the best shape ahead of such an important tournament. The crowd moved out this afternoon, leaving the ground under a heap of garbage. More seriously, there were several small holes and footmarks on the pitch.


"Besides small holes across the field, grass too has been affected. We are filling up the holes but if it rains, it will open up again and can cause problems," said Delhi Soccer Association (DSA) vice-president NK Bhatia.


While fortunately the damage isn't much - that's what the Army officials, the organisers, said - things could have been much worse.


"The huge crowd and the heavy media equipment that was brought in to cover the event could have left it totally unfit for play, more so with the ground being quite wet," said Bhatia.


While the Army officials promise to make the field 'fighting-fit' for the tournament, this intrusion into the ground will definitely play on the minds of the players.


"If a player knows the pitch is not in the best shape, he becomes a bit tentative, fearing injury," said former player Chaman Bhandari.


What irks footballers the most is the step-motherly treatment that's meted out to their stadium vis-à-vis the adjoining Ferozshah Kotla stadium.


"Why couldn't the authorities have used the cricket stadium for detaining the crowd, especially when there's no match scheduled in the near future?" asked Bhatia.


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