Gujarat state qualifiers for Subroto Mukerjee Cup U-14 inter-school football were held at Vyara, a small town near Surat.
The venue was in bad shape as a few players ‘registered’ their injuries during the games.
However, the district football officials, as expected, saw nothing wrong with the football pitch. In fact, they termed it as one of the best grounds in the region.
Unfortunately, this is not one of the isolated incidents where under-prepared or non-playable grounds with stones and pebbles have welcomed the football players. But we can’t blame them either, as there is a dearth of quality grounds in Gujarat.
Among the ones Gujarat possesses, most are privately owned and charge exorbitant amount that not all organisers can afford. The guardians of football in the state are helpless and cannot back any kind of football carnivals, as they themselves crib about lack of funds and finances. Making matters worse is the chalta hai attitude adopted by the administrators, who are the main culprits behind this mess.
Rarely have they taken their jobs seriously. And when no one is complaining why would they even bother? Lack of infrastructure at the grass-root level and absence of a strong base have forced lovers of the beautiful game either away from it or from Gujarat.
Providing better facilities and accommodation for footballers during any competition is a farfetched dream for the officials.
Let alone special facilities, there is no proper drinking water supply on the ground. It’s just a bucket of water that provides a breather to players during intervals. So, the question here to ask is why parents would allow their kids to opt for football when administrators are not even able to provide the basic facilities?
Lovers of the game have tried their best to keep football alive by organising five-a-side and seven-a-side tournaments.
Their attempts are appreciated but to produce a national level footballer these carnivals are inconsequential. Regular or 11-a-side is a different ball game in every aspect whether it is about the area, stamina or rules.
Moreover, there is no dearth of understanding and following of the game in the state. I know of a marketing department of a corporate house in Ahmedabad, including women, being crazy about the game. They have formed their own virtual teams at the start of the season, and depending on the performance of players they score points.
Unfortunately, none of them has Indian player in their team, because they follow only European football, English Premier League in particular. When asked to name a few Indian players they were blank. It was as if a chemistry question was asked in an accounts paper. This is the apathy.
It is not that Gujarat lacks knowledge. Recently, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) conducted a fitness test for referees in Gandhinagar. Out of 64, 37 passed the test including four Amdavadis Imran Shaikh, Vishnu Chauhan, Ashwin Kanojia and Dinesh Nair. These referees will get a chance to officiate in the national level tournaments including the prestigious Santosh Trophy.
Nair and Chauhan have already shown their prowess during high octane Kolkata derby involving East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, in the past.
Achieving this level is not child’s play. These four have put in tremendous amount of effort to be where they are today.
Moreover, those who officiated at the national level have been sharing their knowledge with others.
Without getting into petty politics and prejudice, Nair and Gulab Chauhan (former international referee) have shared their experiences with others and regularly conducted sessions that helped Shaikh, Chauhan and Kanojia to make it to the national level.
Besides these four, few weeks ago, a Gujarat coach was picked by Tata football academy as their coach. It is indeed a commendable achievement, especially considering the fact that Gujarat has failed to produced a single national level player in the last two decades.
Now, all we can hope is these few names can inspire young Gujaratis to take up to football and make it BIG!