Former Indian football captain Bhaichung Bhutia has thrown his support behind the demand for football pitches in Assam’s biggest city, Guwahati, for which several players had staged a protest here.
“It is sad to see footballers young and old coming to the streets demanding to save football pitches so they can play. I hope the government of Assam can listen to their demand (sic),” tweeted Bhutia.
More than 500 footballers from across the state had taken part in a protest rally in the city on Sunday, seeking a few pitches that could be made available to play the game.
“There is no longer a single field…to play football in Guwahati. As a result, training has almost ceased and no tournaments are held in the city,” said Hem Das, chairman of Assam Football Players Association.
“Our request is simple, we want Nehru Stadium to be reopened for football. It should also be allowed in the judges’ court,” he said.
Das, a former national-level footballer, said the lack of such pitches proves to be detrimental to the careers of aspiring players.
“Football can be played by anyone who is passionate about the game, and young people hope to get jobs through sports quotas later in their careers. But, if they are not exposed in terms of games, they cannot be eligible…” Das said.
Hemendranath Brahma, secretary of the Assam Football Association (AFA), said the sports body had urged the government to do so over the years.
The AFA had asked the authorities to provide an alternative ground for football when converting Nehru Stadium into a dedicated cricket ground, which the latter had agreed to consider.
Brahma said the association had submitted a list of 10 sites in and around Guwahati to the Directorate of Sports and Youth Welfare to be developed into football pitches.
“We don’t have any information on the status of our proposal yet, but we assume that management is working on it. Our training ground at Bijoynagar, on the outskirts of the city, is also in the process of opening,” he added.
According to information on the All India Football Association website for its affiliate body in Assam, there are 2016 registered footballers in the state with 195 players renewing their registration this year.
There are 53 licensed clubs in the state along with 27 registered districts, but only 10 playing fields, according to website data.
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