The District Sports Office (DSO)-conducted football tournament is the only inter-school event for kids in the Mira Road-Bhayandar region belonging to Thane District.
So, it was no surprise to see as many as 12 schools turn up for the competition at the Our Lady of Nazareth School Ground, Bhayandar yesterday. Sadly though, the conditions made available for the 100-odd kids were pathetic to say the least.
What the... muck! Kids from schools in Mira Road-Bhayandar battle the slushy ground conditions during yesterday’s District Sports Office-organised U-14 inter-school tournament at Our Lady of Nazareth School Ground, Bhayandar. Pics/ Sundari Iyer
Thick, black muck
More than half the ground was covered in thick, black muck with some areas having ankle-deep slush. As if that was not enough, the DSO did not even care to provide basic medical or sanitation facilities for the children, who were expected to play three to four matches in the day-long, 12-team, U-14 knockout tourney. Shockingly, there were no referees or DSO officials at the venue either, and the schools’ coaches were entrusted with the job of running the show.
Naturally, the tournament was a messy and dangerous affair for the little ones. Two players — Mouiz Shaikh of NH English Academy and Mark Mendonca of Holy Cross High School (Mira Road) were badly injured while struggling to kick the ball across the mucky, unplayable field.
Mouiz tumbled in the muck, where a sharp stone cut his left knee, leaving him bleeding profusely. Thereafter, Mark also fell over and hurt himself on one of the stones at the ground during their quarter-final against St Mary’s (Mira Road).
With no medial help available, NH English coach Syed Yeasin rushed to his ward’s side but could do nothing more than offer him water and some words of consolation. Similarly, Mark’s mother also ran onto the field and bandaged her injured son.
“It’s a shame to see football being played like this and that too for school kids. What happens if there is a serious injury here,” a furious Yeasin said.
Mark’s mother said: “If this is way DSO tournaments are going to be held, then I would not want my kid to play any sport.”
No MSSA, no choice
St Xavier’s (Mira Road) coach Thobias Thomas, who officiated in four matches given the absence of referees, pleaded helplessness in the issue. “We cannot play in the Mumbai School Sports Association (MSSA) competitions as we are situated outside the Mumbai city limits. So, if we want our kids to progress, we must make them play here,” he said.
DSO technical committee member Vijay Bhuke blamed the situation on lack of funds. “There is a lot of talent in the vicinity, but we cannot do anything about this because the DSO has not been granting us any money to conduct this tournament for the last three years,” Bhuke told MiD DAY, even as he justified the absence of medical aid and referees at the venue. “The DSO issues a letter to the host school, wherein it is clearly stated that the responsibility of getting referees, medical aid, etc is theirs and not that of the DSO,” added Bhuke.
Hosts Our Lady Of Nazareth though blamed the DSO.
“As no one was willing to give DSO their ground, I convinced my principal to do so and we have done this on a voluntary basis. Also, when I told the DSO officials that we will not be able to provide medical facilities or referees, they said that they didn’t need anything besides the ground. The DSO officials did not even bother to come and inspect the condition of the ground. But we have learnt our lesson and will not make our ground available to them henceforth,” said Our Lady Of Nazareth coach Adrian D’Souza.
Thane district sports officer Ramesh Posham Pellalu was not available for comment.
However, Deputy Director of Sports and Youth Affairs, Mumbai division, NB Mote promised a detailed enquiry into the incident. “I have no idea about this incident. But the Thane district DSO official is to be blamed for the mess. I will call for a detailed report on this and take necessary action,” said Mote.