Cooperage football ground in Churchgate moved a step closer to getting artificial turf sanctioned by FIFA after the officials from the world football governing body expressed satisfaction following the inspection of the ground on Friday.
Eric Harrison and Chrisantha Perera, two FIFA officials, reached the city on Friday morning from Bangalore, along with All India Football Federation (AIFF) outgoing general secretary Alberto Colaco.
"It's a really good place. The best part of it is that the ground is owned by the Association itself. The drainage facilities are good and it also has proper security," Harrison said.
He will be submitting his report to the FIFA authorities next week for the final approval after which a notice for tenders will be issued. "If all goes well it would take three or four weeks for the turfs to be sanctioned. Then the tendering process will start and would take two more months. We hope the installation can begin by January 2010," Harrison said, stressing that the installation of the turf needs to be completed before the onset of the monsoons.
Cooperage will be getting the turf under FIFA's Win in India with India programme, under which they have granted 10 artificial turfs to the country. Each turf is expected to cost FIFA around $500,000 to $600,000.
Harrison said the turf can be used for a maximum of six hours per day and if maintained properly, it will last around 10 years. But the AIFF will have to rework the schedule as playing in the afternoon on artificial turfs becomes difficult due the heat it absorbs.
Further, if the installation of the turf in Mumbai begins in January 2010, I-League matches of the Mumbai-based clubs will have to be shifted to some other city. However, Harrison has said they will be considering the domestic schedule before the work begins. A few players have also raised their concerns of playing on the turf, saying it is not perfect for the Indian conditions.
The main advantage of the turf, which is used world-wide, would be that the matches can be held also during the rains, which is not the case now. The stadium can also be used for cultural activities if proper covers are used to avoid damage to the turf, which comes with an eight-year warranty.
Harrison, however, cautioned WIFA authorities, that they would need to get the sanction of manufacturer if they want to use it for holding cultural activities like music concerts.
Harrison, who has the experience of getting astro-turfs sanctioned in several Asian countries, and Perera have already visited stadium in Bangalore. "I am also satisfied with Bangalore (football stadium)," he said. They are set to travel to the North-East to inspect Shillong (Polo ground) and Imphal (National Sports Academy).