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Mumbai sporting grounds: This is no way to make champions

In the concluding part of a series that reviews sporting grounds, we train our sights on Borivali and Azad Maidan

St Francis D’Assisi Ground, Borivali
This suburban ground, perennially in shoddy condition, plays host to a number of district and school level football matches. In late August-September when the monsoon hit Mumbai, the ground was mucky and the lack of grass made it perilous.

The St Francis D’Assisi ground needs more consistency since it is uneven in large portions and first-aid facilities must be more easily accessible. Pics/Atul Kamble
The St Francis D’Assisi ground needs more consistency since it is uneven in large portions and first-aid facilities must be more easily accessible. Pics/Atul Kamble

Yet, there was a patch that was very grassy, so, a ground largely shorn of grass but with a sporadic green patch made for an inconsistent surface and a big challenge for the players. “The D’Assisi Ground is as big as two football grounds. It gets mucky when it rains, which has the case even out of season too. Otherwise it is fine,” said Thakur Public School Kandivali’s football skipper, 15-year-old Rohan Sharma.

The washroom is a long walk from the playing area
The washroom is a long walk from the playing area

When we visited, we spotted no changing rooms. This forced players to change in the stands. The water supply at the ground came from taps used for both washing and drinking. We could not see a water purifier either.

The interiors of the washroom, needs attention
The interiors of the washroom, needs attention

St Anne’s Malad player Melson Fernandes, 14 said, the action is usually fast and furious here, but first-aid is missing. She added, “Sometimes, we misjudge the ball on the sideline, which leads to injuries. First-aid at the ground is lacking. Our coaches have to carry a first-aid box.”

Regan Raj, 15, from St Joseph’s Vikhroli, said, “We prefer not to change out of our sports gear after the match. But since there is no place to change, we cannot discard the sweaty old inners.”

“The toilet is at one end of the ground, so we relieve ourselves in a corner. We are boys, so it does not matter where we change, but for girls, it gets difficult. They should have better facilities for players,” said Vedant Divekar from Bal Mohan English School in Dadar.

The saving grace was the clean toilet, but that is not saying much for a ground this popular. Facilities fall woefully short. Overall, the layout seems to be myopic with little thought given to the fact that sports training means the entire package ground — plus adjunct amenities.

Index: Sanitation includes toilets, dustbins and overall hygiene.
Amenities include water for bathing, drinking, availability of snacks and other beverages. Facilities include first-aid, changing rooms and security.

Score card
Sanitation: 2/5
Amenities: 1.5/5
Ground condition: 2/5
Spectator stand condition: 2/5
Rating meter: 1- Apalling, 2- Poor, 3- Competent, 4- Good, 5- Excellent

MSSA Ground, Azad Maidan
Conditions and facilities at the Mumbai School Sports Association (MSSA) ground at Azad Maidan, where several inter-school sports tournaments are held, are relatively better than at other grounds. There are food stalls, changing rooms, clean washrooms and water is available.

The MSSA ground changing rooms are clean and functional, say players
The MSSA ground changing rooms are clean and functional, say players

Lack of proper first-aid and medical facilities are a concern for teams, though. Sakshi Thakur, football skipper of Arya Vidya Mandir in Bandra, said, “There are too many stones scattered on the ground. They hurt us beneath the studs of our football shoes.

The ground unfortunately is gravelly. Players need a kinder surface to avoid injuries
The ground unfortunately is gravelly. Players need a kinder surface to avoid injuries

There is no proper medical help available. In our first match of the first division tournament, one of our players was injured and there was no stretcher to take her away from the ground.” Renee Talati, striker of St Anne’s Fort, said, “The ground has been maintained, facilities are relatively better.

The stands at MSSA are in good shape and fill up with parents and supporters when a game is on. Pics/Suresh KK
The stands at MSSA are in good shape and fill up with parents and supporters when a game is on. Pics/Suresh KK

Water and changing rooms are available and proper stands allow substitutes to sit but there is less grass compared to other grounds, so, the chance of injuries is high.”

Stressing the problems faced by players at the MSSA ground, Lianne Dhalla goalkeeper, The Cathedral and John Connon School, Fort, said, “The ground has some low level areas which makes it difficult to collect the ball in the ‘D’ (area around the goal). The stands are quite good, though.”

The MSSA ground is a favourite with city coaches too. The Cathedral and John Connon coach, Deepak Narwade said, “I am happy to play my team at MSSA, the other grounds are far away from the school. We get caught in traffic and have less time to warm up.

Unlike here, there are no changing rooms at other venues, so the girls feel awkward, especially at St Francis D’Assisi Ground, Borivali.” St Anne’s coach Prasant Bangale, said, “When it come to girls, we have to be more protective.

Women athletes need changing rooms. They cannot change in the open. Not changing clothes after play can cause infections too. There is a yawning need for better facilities at sporting grounds in the city.”

If India wants to make the Olympic podium, a focus on grassroots sport is vital. We need a strong foundation to build upon and we must be spoilt for choice when it comes to sporting talent if we want to be considered a force.

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

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