CHENNAI: Paucity of quality football fields is a problem in India. Even the national team has had to train abroad before international tournaments for the want of proper grounds. Clubs and players complain about it, but not much is done to make things better.
In the Super Division of the Chennai Football Association league, an effort is on to make a difference. Tired of training on mud grounds and risking injury, Hindustan Eagles are laying their own turf. Built at the cost of over a crore, it’s coming up at Hindustan University, which owns the club. The new ground will be used also by the junior teams of ISL champions Chennaiyin FC.
The decision was taken after club authorities saw players finding it difficult to train on poor grounds. “We want to give priority to providing best facilities to the players. They had to toil on mud. Turf reduces chances of injuries, so we decided to lay one,”says Ashok Verghese, director of Hindustan University. “Our total outlay is about `1.5 crore, which we will be spending in another two years for building a small gallery.”
Chennaiyin FC did not confirm getting into an agreement with Hindustan Eagles to share the new ground for practice, but sources added that talks are on. “If the plan materialses, Chennaiyin’s junior teams (U-13 to U-18) will train at that ground,” said an official.
The Eagles finished runners-up in the Super Division this year. They have been champions twice. But in the last seven years, they were training on mud grounds. It was only this season that the club management took a turf ground on lease at Gateway International School for practice in proper conditions.
“We had to face problems because we were training on mud and playing on grass. There is a lot of difference between the two,” says Muhammed Miqdad, Eagles captain. The midfielder has been with the team for four years and it was mud for practice in the first three.
Striker Cletus Paul, who has played for Bengaluru FC, felt the new ground will help juniors. “When we play on mud, we are vulnerable to injuries. Also, the ball speed and bounce varies. Playing on grass is proper football," said the striker, who finished highest scorer (13) in the Senior Division this season.
Eagles authorities have hired Stumps and Clubs, a company which lays and maintains grounds for cricket and golf, for `25 lakh for one year. “To level the ground, we had to raise it by half a foot. Recently, the college has dug bores and set up 36 sprinklers. In the next few days, we will inject pesticides. Later, the process of growing grass will begin. The ground will be ready by July approximately," said R Venkat Krishnan, the owner of Stumps and Clubs.