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MDFA's Elite Division hit by 'ground reality'

Mumbai football continues to be kicked around. Mumbai's premier football tournament — the Mumbai District Football Association's (MDFA) Elite Division — after being scrapped last year, is being held this year, but this good news too comes with a rider.

The refurbished Cooperage still has not been given the OC. Pic/Shadab Khan
The refurbished Cooperage still has not been given the OC. Pic/Shadab Khan 

The tournament, scrapped last year due to unavailability of grounds and later unavailability of teams, will kick off tomorrow with ONGC taking on Union Bank at Vashi's Father Agnel Football Ground.

At the grounds' mercy
However, the MDFA was able to announce just the first three fixtures of the tournament since the remainder of the matches will be held subject to availability of the five venues — Fr Agnel Football Ground, Kalina's Air India ground, Goan Sports Ground at Cross Maidan, Chembur's RCF Ground and Western Railway's ground at Mahalaxmi.

"Every ground has its own commitments. So, as per their convenience, we'll hold our matches. But by mid-April, we expect to wrap up the Elite Division," Udayan Banerjee, Honorary Secretary of MDFA, told reporters yesterday.

Banerjee however is hopeful that the refurbished Cooperage Stadium will come into play eventually. "WIFA (Western India Football Association) has promised us that the Cooperage will be available by the third week of March. So, we can hold matches there too," he said.

Different surfaces
Another issue for the teams is that they will have to play on varied surfaces — Fr Agnel Ground has an Astroturf pitch while the other four grounds are a mixture of grass and mud pitches.
Banerjee though said the teams have no problem adjusting.

"The biggest problem is that we don't have our own ground. Besides, we met all the team officials twice and told them about this issue and they felt that instead of postponing the tournament until the Cooperage is ready, it's better to hold it on the grounds that are available."

Former India captain Godfred Pereira, who is now coach of Elite outfit Air India, felt something is better than nothing. "The team's performance is affected when the playing surface changes.

However, for the last few years, football in this city has been stagnant. So, this tournament being held, even on different turfs, is a good thing. At least, the new MDFA committee is trying to do something for the game," he said.

Meanwhile, Souter Vaz, the General Secretary of WIFA, told SUNDAY MiD DAY that there was only one final hurdle in context with the Cooperage. He said: "The turf is ready. Even the stands are almost ready. All that remains is getting an Occupation Certificate (OC) from the civic body. That will be done by mid-March."

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