Oct 8, 2011

Investing in Sports Infrastructures

Photo Courtesy: http://www.raonline.ch

Days are gradually getting shorter nowadays and the paddy fields are slowly yellowing in our villages like the autumn sun itself. For farmers this is the time to harvest their hard work for having toiled both in the rain and shine the whole summer long. But here in the heart of Phuentsholing town, there is nothing to harvest although the whole summer our footballers seemed to have prepared the new football field for paddy transplantation.

Phuentsholing Sports Association (PSA) has invested a lot of effort in trying to turn the old ground into a new and standard football stadium; of course with the funding from the outside. It is nowhere near Changlingmithang national stadium, we know. But for a smaller town like Phuentsholing, the new stadium is all that we could possibly ask for. It came as a blessing for the football enthusiasts in the town.
The new stadium (which does not appear to be now) took more than a couple years to be fully built and then the grasses to grow. And as the ground opened for the public this summer it was a dream come true for many a football fanatics.

The lush green grasses, tender and delicate, added to the beauty of the newly inaugurated stadium. Everyone praised the people who have built it (whoever was responsible for building the stadium) as the Monsoon Tournament kicked off this summer. Scores of teams registered for the tourney.

And watching the first match of the tournament back then, one was offered the experience of sitting in the Changlingmithang stadium. The first match that weekend drew a huge of crowds of excited people. That was one hell of a match. I could only relate to similar experience back to the college days where a huge crowd would gather to cheer for their teams.

But the nature of monsoon is that it brings ample of rain. And unlike in the past this year it did not rain much. But no doubt it rained. And the rainwater collected on the football field started to sip into the tender green grassy ground. The whole field (worst affected was the centre area) became loose and slippery. As the players kicked the ball chunks of grasses were being uprooted from the ground underneath their feet. Slowly, some sections of the field started to grow bald.

But the footballers never stopped kicking the balls irrespective of the weather conditions and health of the football field. It rained more. Weekend was even more severe as the ground played host to two or three matches regularly. Meanwhile it rained more and more games were played. At one point in time, the football ground looked like one large paddy field being readied for the transplantation of rice saplings.

The newly constructed Phuentsholing football field, which is built to stand for decades has been reduced to no more than an overgrazed pastureland at some far off mountains as the tournaments after tournaments torture it without any breaks in between. As soon as one ends another begins.

So, this made me think why are we playing football only during summer? Do we really need to play when it rains? Can’t we save the tournaments for winter?

My personal observation is if the authorities allowed the green grasses to grow taller and extend their roots deeper then they would facilitate the ground to withstand the forces of rain. And stepping on these grasses would not bring about much damage to the greens. But with no proper drainage system the rainwater finds way into the soil beneath. This makes the ground muddy.  

In the first place to have such a sporting infrastructure is a much-coveted privilege. And realizing that we should have allowed the ground to generate on its own so that it is finally ready to host matches.

Now the sick football field will take a long time to recover from the nightmarish summer if it recovers at all. We hope to see some help by the people in the regeneration process if it regenerates at all. And this was a very good lesson to all involved making the best use of such sporting facilities by taking full ownership.

And knowing that grasses would not survive in the rainy muddy ground being stamped upon maybe it is time we try something new. You may laugh at this idea of procuring synthetic grasses. We know definitely it will be expensive but it would be worth trying to acquire and solve the maintenance and other related problems. With the support from all quarters we can make it happen. And if this project sees the light of the day then slowly we would aim to do the same in the other places.

If we have proper and standard stadia to boast about then we would have teams from across the border wanting to play with us. As a result our people will gain experience and exposures and then this way we maybe in a position to move up a few steps up in the FIFA ranking.  But this time we need to invest in sports infrastructures and generate keen sporting interest in our people.

Or else our people who show a lot of promises in sports have no places to exhibit their skills and shine. And for them beyond coaching some school students the scope is none.