Ire over venue shift

Guwahati, Jan. 24: A day after the AIFF formally announced the shifting of the venue for the February 6 India-Palestine friendly international football match from the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium here to Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Cochin, sportspersons and organisers in the state are unanimous in their call for maintenance and utilisation of the multi-crore asset of the state only for sports.

The Telegraph spoke to some sport stalwarts of Assam who have expressed shock and dismay over the state of affairs as far as the usage of the state-of-the-art infrastructure is concerned. While some have demanded ouster of non-sports activities from the stadium, others have demanded compensation for the damage, and penalty to the officials associated with the granting of permission for three events in the last one month, leading to the damage of the ground and synthetic athletic track.

Following are some of the excerpts:

Bhogeswar Barua (Arjuna awardee athlete): I am shocked to learn that the football match has been shifted, which will definitely have an adverse impact on Assam's future prospects. Unfortunately, the government and the sports department hardly care about sports, basically because of a lack of people with knowledge at the helm of affairs. The ministers and officials also don't try to learn what international sports is all about even after witnessing events like Olympics and Asian Games.

While we should have used the infrastructure for producing athletes in the last six years, our government is using it for non-sports events and damaging it beyond repair.

It is high time the infrastructure is maintained and used only for sport. There are a lot of other places for car rally, motorcycle stunt show and musical nights even inside Sarusajai sports complex.

Monalisha Baruah Mehta (Arjuna awardee paddler): I would like to thank the government for the creation of infrastructure but, as a sportsperson, I am grieved that the same infrastructure can no more be used for sports because of a lack of maintenance. It is time to brainstorm to chalk out a roadmap for maintenance and proper utilisation of the assets for the benefit of sports.

Gilbertson Sangma (Former footballer): Nothing can be more painful for a sportsperson than to know that our region is on the verge of losing a place on the Fifa map. It is a great loss to the people of the region, especially for budding footballers. The most unfortunate part is that Guwahati may be out of the race for the 2017 Junior World Cup venues. The government is apparently misled by vested interests to misuse the infrastructure. Why should they damage the ground and tracks when there is enough space outside the stadium for non-sports events?

Durgadas Boro (Former Assam Olympic Association president): The purpose of the infrastructure at our disposal has not served even one per cent. It is surprising that chief minister Tarun Gogoi and the government's entire top brass were sitting there when vehicles and bikes ran on the tracks and ground. Those who damaged it should be asked to compensate and those who granted permission should be penalised. It is time the infrastructure and equipment are made available to the organisers to produce players and non-sports activities kept out of it, like that of Judges Field.

Tayabun Nisha (Former athlete): It is very unfortunate that the ground and the tracks are damaged. The outside space in the complex could have been used for the car rally and stunt shows. The stadium is our asset and should be used only for the development of sports.

Rana Goswami (vice-president of Sports Authority of Assam and veteran organiser): I admit that everything is not hunky dory with the infrastructure. Somtimes I even have to fight with the government to keep non-sports activities away from the ground and tracks. I also admit that our chairman (chief minister Gogoi) is sometimes misled by bureaucrats and officials to get the stadium allotted.

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