With no football stadium with international specifications issued by the world governing body FIFA and the All India Football Federation (AIFF), the Tricity’s only football stadium in Sector 17, Chandigarh, gets to see trainees of the Chandigarh Football Academy and players of the local football clubs hone their skills.
The Sector 17 Football Stadium was constructed in the late 1960s and with no dug-outs, spectator galleries and the required training facilities, the stadium misses out on seeing action of tournaments like I-League and other national tournaments.
“It (a football stadium of international standards) is a requirement in Chandigarh and the surrounding areas. The players need to practise and play in an international-level stadium. It will boost football in the region. Chandigarh players like Robin Singh, Sehnaj Singh, Gurjinder Singh and Amarinder Singh are playing for the Indian national team. Chandigarh Football Association needs to develop activities for such a stadium in the city. For the junior players, too, it will be a learning experience to play in an international-standard stadium,” says Harjinder Singh, chief coach, Chandigarh Football Academy, Sector 42.
While matches of Cricket World Cup, Hockey India League and Davis Cup in Tennis have been played in Chandigarh, the lack of the AIFF- and FIFA-approved stadium has meant that I-League and other tournaments are not played in the Tricity. The trainees at the Chandigarh Football Academy train either at the Sector 42 Sports Complex or the Sector 17 Football Stadium. “I am now playing for East Bengal Football Club. A lot of players from Chandigarh play for different clubs in I-League. We miss an international stadium in Chandigarh. When we used to play in CFA, we would also see PHL matches at Hockey Stadium and would expect to see such football matches in Chandigarh,” says former trainee of CFA Sehnaj Singh, who was part of the Indian football team last year.
For the last six months, city-based football club Minerva Football Club, which became the first Chandigarh club to play in the I-League second division, is also playing its home matches in Ludhiana. The club, which won the Western conference title in the competition, played four matches in Ludhiana. The players currently train at the Sector 17 stadium.
“It has been tough for us as we have to make arrangements even for our home matches. We played four matches in Ludhiana apart from playing matches in Srinagar. We have requested AIFF to see the stadium again. We can get some matches played in the U-15 I League with temporary arrangements like dug-outs and coaches area,” says Ranjeet Bajaj, former player and promoter of Minerva Football Club.
The Chandigarh Administration plans to build football stadiums in the new multipurpose sports complexes to be built at Manimjra and Sarangpur.