As part of the “Win in India with India” launched by Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) in 2007, ten artificial turf fields of international standards had been sanctioned by FIFA to the All India Football Federation (AIFF). Kerala, one of the prospective states for implementation of the artificial turf according to AIFF, may miss the opportunity – in another case of ‘who will bell the cat’.
FIFA is financing the project and is expected to handle the project independently in terms of bidding process, contract signing and testing. A seminar to educate member associations on how to maintain the quality of the artificial surfaces is also on the cards. FIFA will pick one from the four artificial turf companies contracted to them – Field Turf (Canada), Limonta (Italy), Greenfields (Holland) and Act Global (New Zealand) to lay the all-weather turf.
The AIFF made a great strategic decision by picking states where the I-League clubs were based and other states that were part of the “Vision India” program of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). Each artificial turf field is expected to cost a minimum of Rs 4 Crores and it is rumored that States like Goa, Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Manipur, Punjab, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal are likely to benefit from this project.
The associations of Goa, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have confirmed that last month, the AIFF has issued them a letter to this effect requesting the respective state associations to identify the stadium (and city) where the artificial turf fields can be implemented and provide the availability and details.
It was widely expected that the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium (locally known as Kaloor International Stadium) at Kochi will be the one that would get picked by the Kerala Football Association (KFA). The JN Stadium with a seating capacity of 75,000 is India’s fifth largest stadium and has played host to various national and international events including the reputed Nehru International Cup in 1997.
JN Stadium is also home to Viva Kerala (the only South Indian I-League representative) and Malabar United (played in the I-League Second Division last season). However, lately, the turf at JN Stadium has been in bad shape and Viva Kerala was forced to play some of their matches away from home due to International cricket matches being hosted at the venue.
It seems like God has finally answered our prayers. The BCCI is planning a bigger purpose-built stadium for cricket in Kochi thereby ignoring the JN Stadium indefinitely, FIFA and AIFF would like to implement artificial turf in Kerala and the Sports Minister of Kerala (M Vijayakumar) has assured that the Government will do its best to rejuvenate football in Kerala and supplement the efforts of KFA.
However, the KFA is yet to respond to the letter from AIFF though the last date for submission has lapsed about two to three weeks back and it is extremely surprising that the KFA has still not identified a stadium (and city).
The JN Stadium at Kochi is owned by the Greater Cochin Development Authority (GCDA). Moreover, it is common knowledge to one and all in Kerala that none of the football stadiums are controlled by KFA. Hence, the KFA has sought the help of the Kerala Sports Council (KSC).
The KSC President and former mayor of Kozhikode, T P Dasan, is of the opinion that since the FIFA Football Academy is being planned at Kochi (wonder if land has been procured for the project!), the artificial turf can be implemented at Kozhikode. He has, however, clarified that no stadium or city has been identified for the implementation and was not aware of the urgency or time frame in identifying the stadium.
In the essence of time, can somebody please stand up and bring the situation under control? KSC, KFA and AIFF needs to mend their ways of bureaucracy and work together to sort this issue. The football lovers in Kerala are in anticipation of a favorable response from all concerned.
Let us not forget that there are a host of other cities waiting to grab the chance. Kerala’s loss (God forbid!) could be a gain for cities like Hyderabad, Guwahati, Jamshedpur, Pune, Shillong or even Siliguri.
While there are no clear or indicative answers on artificial turfs to Kerala, the million dollar question still remains – will this be a distant dream or reality? Oh, by the way, just realized that Rs 4 Crores is roughly a million dollars, so it is indeed a million dollar question!!!
Jason Morais writes for Footballkerala.com