CHENNAI: It continues to be a playground that is beyond compare. It can host a full-fledged football and cricket match simultaneously. The oval ground is so huge that a lap around it almost amounts to covering 1,000 metres.
The East Tambaram railway ground, which for decades has played host to promising athletes, looks a far cry from its original glory. The floods of 2015 and cyclone ‘Vardah’ in 2016 have had a devastating effect on it.
Today, the ground is surrounded by construction debris. Its surface is so uneven that residents and visitors jokingly say that only ‘all terrain vehicle tournaments’ can be held.
The ground is located close to Tambaram railway station and was once surrounded by the elegant quarters of Southern Railway employees. Over a period of time, with development of the Coaching Terminal project and disappearance of houses of railway employees, the ground began to lose its sheen, residents recall.
Residents of Anna Nagar have the Tower Park, those in T.Nagar have the Natesan Park, and many also flock to the Marina and Elliot’s beaches early morning and evening. But for most residents of Tambaram, it has always been the railway ground for decades, but that is not the case any more. The surface is uneven both inside the ground and around it.
“Many athletes who have made it to the State and national levels have honed their skills here,” recalls G Ramanand, an East Tambaram resident. He remembers district-level football tournaments being organised here.
Many young men and women who have excelled in athletics and other sports have practised here and have gone on to find employment in the government sector and private companies, he adds.
About 10 years ago, sports enthusiasts submitted a memorandum to the then Minister of State for Railways, R Velu, urging him to carry out improvement works at the ground, including laying a six-lane track around the football field, a seating enclosure and other amenities.
What hurts athletes the most is that after dark, tipplers gather at the ground and leave behind broken bottles and litter. The athletes have appealed to the railway police to at least put an end to this menace.
Southern Railway administration, along with the State Forest Department recently launched a tree planting drive to make up for the green cover lost during the cyclone in 2016. A source in the railway administration said they were waiting for the end of the monsoon to take up improvement works inside the ground.
Railway officials, along with the State Forest Department recently launched a tree planting drive to make up for the green cover lost during Vardah cyclone in 2016