The visiting FIFA inspection team was more circumspect than optimistic about the football infrastructure they saw in Bangalore.
There was an inescapable feeling that despite all the talk of developing the required infrastructure in time for the 2017 World Cup football in India, Bangalore was way behind the other seven cities (New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Kochi, Guwahati, Margao and Pune).
More than five decades have elapsed since work on the Karnataka State Football Association’s football stadium began. And still, there is no sign of completion. The two corner plots at the venue have been leased to the Rahejas for a song (` 2 crore for a lease of 88 years).
Now there is a proposal to sign a contract with another private party, JSW (owners of I-League new entrants Bengaluru Football Club). The authorities plans to hand over the stadium to them to be demolished and rebuilt.
From the originally planned capacity of 90,000 (a stadium with three tier galleries all around like the Maracana Stadium in Brazil), it will now be rebuilt to seat a mere 25,000. All the money spent over the years and the cost of labour and maintenance goes down the drain.
If it has been decided to demolish it, it also means that football activity will shift elsewhere.
Apart from the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, where else can they go? Parleys are on with officials of the state government to convince them to accommodate football activity at the stadium.
With the football stadium under construction, it essentially means the athletics activity at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium will be disrupted. Bengaluru FC will practise and also play their I-League fixtures at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium till such time as the football stadium, if demolished and rebuilt, is ready to host football again.
“We have had some proposals but there is nothing in writing as of now. We will have to consider all aspects before taking any decision,” said a Department of Youth Services and Sports (DYES) official who did not want to be named.
“Let the state government allot a fresh piece of land to the football association so that they can build a new stadium for the Under-17 World Cup. I think that will be the best solution in the circumstances,” said Sathyanarayana, a former India athlete and a former secretary of the Karnataka Athletics Association.
A prominent athlete, on condition of anonymity, concurred. “I think that is a good idea as it will not disrupt any activity, be it athletics or football. Surely the World Cup must be held here if Bangalore is a venue but that does not mean that everything else must be sacrificed,” he said.
Football is being played in Bangalore since time immemorial. From the Garrison grounds (the present Chinnaswamy Stadium) to the Sullivan Police grounds (the present hockey grounds) and the Shoolay tank bed area (the present football stadium), the show has gone on. But despite an exclusive football venue, major tournaments have always been organised at the Kanteerava Stadium, the RSI Stadium and even the Chinnaswamy Stadium.