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Ground reality: A look at Sporting grounds in Mumbai

With the local sports season on in full swing, we tour sporting grounds for a field review and a look at the facilities

With India aiming to move to a position of respectability among multi-sport nations, it is grassroots efforts that earn us champions. Yet, there is so much that needs to be done when it comes to facilities for young athletes — from changing rooms to drinking water and showers at city grounds. In the first of a two-part series, we review three popular grounds in Mumbai.

Sports Authority of India (SAI), Kandivali
The SAI complex in Kandivali sits amidst verdant expanse and lush greenery. Yet, for the athletes, it is a case of the grass is greener on the other side. The football ground is not maintained with players risking injury. St Andrew’s College coach Sydney Alexander says, “Look at the grass it is overgrown, you cannot see the ball.”

Players admitted they avoided using the dirty washrooms. Pics/Atul Kamble
Players admitted they avoided using the dirty washrooms. Pics/Atul Kamble

The facility lacks changing rooms too. Gajala Shaikh from Apostolic Carmel School, Bandra, says, “Since there are no changing rooms, we arrive wearing our football gear to the ground. Post match, we make our way home in the same clothes we have played in.”

The dilapidated changing rooms at SAI’s multi-facility that could do with an overhaul
The dilapidated changing rooms at SAI’s multi-facility that could do with an overhaul

Neha Neharkar, a track athlete says, “We have to go to one corner in search of privacy and change there. I come all the way from Dadar to practice, but the facilities here are terrible.” Hold your nose and stop breathing if you are in the vicinity of the washrooms.

Aarti Patil from Balmohan Vidya Mandir (Marathi) in Dadar tells us that the ladies washroom and toilets are nothing short of filthy. “You can’t enter because of the stink.” We could not find a drinking water facility, either, a basic requirement at any sporting ground. First-aid amenities too, were conspicuous by their absence.

It was apparent that Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was yet to reach SAI, Kandivali. Since there were no dustbins, the ground was full of litter. The redeeming factor was that the running track was in good condition. That explains why track ‘n’ field athletes brave long commutes to train here. But, that’s about it, for a SA(I)D state of affairs.

Index: Sanitation includes the condition of toilets, dustbins and overall hygiene. Amenities include water for showers and drinking, availability of snacks and other beverages.

Score card
Sanitation: 1/5
Amenities: 1/5
Ground condition: 2/5
Spectator stand condition: 2/5
Rating meter: 1- Apalling,
2- Poor, 3- Competent,
4- Good, 5- Excellent

St Xavier’s Ground, Parel
Located near King Edward Medical Hospital (KEM), St Xavier’s Ground in Parel was missing first-aid facilities. Recently, a football player from BEST, Saurabh Lokhande suffered an injury at the ground. It took a while for medical help to be provided to him. Fortunately, the injury was not very severe.

People were seen drying clothes and sleeping in the stadium stands
People were seen drying clothes and sleeping in the stadium stands

Himanshu Bharati from Elphinstone College who plays football at the ground said, “The ground is not in good condition. There is too much sand, people litter and some use the stands as a drinking spot.”

An inter-school football match in progress at St Xavier’s Ground. Let us bring this facility to some standard

Liquor bottles near the entrance of the ground as well as in the stands, validate his criticism. We also saw garbage strewn since there were no dustbins. It does not end there. A part of the periphery wall was breached leading people to take a short cut and actually jaywalk on the ground while matches were on.

The area around the ground is a makeshift urinal
The area around the ground is a makeshift urinal

Udayan Banerjee, Honorary Secretary of Mumbai District Football Association (MDFA), said, “We are aware of the ground being misused. It’s difficult for us to take immediate action. We have informed the Bhoiwada police station to check the ground daily. The broken wall will be fixed soon.”

Liquor bottles and garbage are strewn around the ground
Liquor bottles and garbage are strewn around the ground

Sporting Options coach Roger Fernandes, said, “The MDFA is not concerned about the development of the sport or players’ security. The grass has not been cut. There is a patch on the ground where the ball does not even move.

Our photographer spotted two men drinking alcohol on the ground
Our photographer spotted two men drinking alcohol on the ground

There are people who are seen taking drugs, consuming alcohol... who is going to tackle this?” Vinit Pandya, a local player said, “This ground is for people to play. But apparently, football is just a sideshow. People smoke, sleep, take drugs in the open. Nobody is bothered. Security is zero.”

With the wall leading to St Xavier’s Ground in Parel broken, many people jaywalk on the ground while matches are on.  Pics/Tushar Satam
With the wall leading to St Xavier’s Ground in Parel broken, many people jaywalk on the ground while matches are on.  Pics/Tushar Satam

Mitali Palave, a Jamnabai Narsee teacher, said, “When I accompanied my team to Xavier’s recently, I wanted to use the washrooms but they were closed. There is no water and no toilets. People were sleeping around the place. It is very unsafe and ill-equipped.”

Responding to the criticism, Banerjee said, “We have locked some of the toilets, but the public can use those inside the office. Since water from the well which supplies us water stinks, we have stopped supply of water in the showers.”

What the authorities need to do is rid the ground of anti-social elements and then, think of an upgradation on various fronts. It needs indomitable will, perseverance and a real passion for sports to make something of the ground. For those saying don’t give me problems, give me a solution, maybe, a corporate could adopt the ground and give it a complete overhaul.

See tomorrow: The second and concluding part of our series on St Francis D’Assisi Ground, Borivali and MSSA Ground, Azad Maidan

Score card
Sanitation: 1/5
Amenities: 1/5
Ground condition: 1/5
Spectator stand condition: 1/5

University Ground, Marine Lines
This sports facility between Marine Lines and Churchgate railway station plays host to a number of football and athletics tournaments. It has what one would call the ‘A’ factor — accessibility because of its proximity to railway stations. Compared to other grounds in the city, this is relatively well maintained.

The University Ground overlooks the Western Railway tracks. Pics/Suresh KK
The University Ground overlooks the Western Railway tracks. Pics/Suresh KK

The spectator stands though are under renovation and visitors need to really watch their step. Pankaj Singh, sports manager, Guru Nanak College, says, “This ground is the best we have played on so far. The other grounds where inter-college matches are conducted do not have basic facilities like water, changing rooms or proper washrooms. Mumbai University should conduct all the matches on this ground alone.”

The construction work at University stadium’s stands compel spectators to watch their step
The construction work at University stadium’s stands compel spectators to watch their step

Jai Hind College coach Shashank Shah says, “The changing rooms and washrooms are good. Players feel happy when they have to play here, as they have an above average ground and supporting facilities.”

The washrooms at University stadium, though passable could be cleaner
The washrooms at University stadium, though passable could be cleaner

The Marine Lines ground gets a thumbs up from coaches too. “This is the best ground that the boys get to play on. They have changing rooms, water, toilets, seating arrangements and a canteen. Even accessing the venue is not a problem. At other inter-collegiate match venues, there is a lack of basic facilities like medical aid, water or even washrooms for these kids,” says Sydenham College, football coach Saghir Ansari.

Akshay Khot, 100 and 200m sprinter, says, “The University Pavilion is made for inter-collegiate sporting events. Why can’t we have all such tournaments and events here? We run preliminary rounds at grounds that lack basic facilities for athletes.”

Dr Uttam Kendre, Mumbai University’s Director of Sports says, “The stands are under construction, the mess is just temporary. If not ready by month end, we will make some seating arrangements for the kids within the ground.”

The University may get a round of applause from competitors and coaches alike. Yet, basics like water, changing rooms and toilets must come as a ‘given’ at grounds. That coaches and players are thankful for “small mercies’’ is a disturbing commentary on what our athletes have to endure.

Score card
Sanitation: 4/5
Amenities: 4/5
Ground condition: 5/5
Spectator stand condition: 3/5

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