Mumbai's hockey afficionados will be glad to know that the Mumbai Hockey Association's (MHA) task -- now, long overdue -- of laying out a new astroturf surface is nearing completion. On Saturday, at the Churchgate venue, the green carpet was literally being rolled out across the concrete surface and within a few weeks or so, officials claim, competitive hockey can be played on it.
Workers laying out the new astroturf surface at the
MHA-Mahindra Stadium, Churchgate on Saturday. Pic/Suresh KK
The inaugural franchise-based World Series Hockey (Feb 29-April 1) will be the first tournament to be played on the brand new surface. In fact, had it not been for the WSH, the new turf would never have seen the light of day. "All this has come about only because of the WSH. Mumbai (one of the eight WSH franchises) will be hosting seven matches here. Keeping in mind the urgency of the tournament we had to push to get the turf ready in time," said MHA secretary, Gurbux Singh.
Olympian Joaquim Carvalho claimed the turf will be one of the best its kind. "This turf and the venue (stands & other facilities included) will be world-class. However, the mammoth task would not have been possible without the support of the neighbouring Mumbai Cricket Association, that provide the much-needed financial aid for the turf (MHA had given off a portion of its north end to MCA to complete the revamp of the Wankhede Stadium for the 2011 World Cup) and Vijay Shirke of B G Shirke Construction Co, who volunteered to do the construction work for free and also agreed to pay for the new floodlights," said Carvalho.
The former India coach pointed out that there will be a new electronic scoreboard too besides a stand for coaches to record videos, an improved VIP area and Wi-Fi systems among other facilities. "As there is a shortage of time, the concrete seating arrangement will not be changed for now but will only be renovated for the WSH. The work on new stands will begin in the second phase, after the WSH is over," Carvalho told MiD DAY.
Four-time Olympian and former India captain Dhanraj Pillay was more relieved than glad that hockey would be back at his favourite venue. "News of a new turf being finally laid at MHA comes as a huge relief. The Mumbai Hockey Super League has not been held for nearly a decade due to poor ground conditions. Now, I can't wait to see fans fill up the new stands," said Pillay.