The Union sports ministry has invited former India captain Samar (Badru) Banerjee at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on August 29 for the awards function on National Sports Day. The invitation has been personally sent by sports minister MS Gill. Meanwhile, Indian football took a big leap towards the future at the Salt Lake Stadium here on Monday.

The completion of the country’s first artificial pitch in a stadium — also a first amongst SAARC nations –was marked by the presence of some stalwarts from Indian football’s ‘golden era’. Sailen Manna, PK Banerjee, Chuni Goswami, Samar (Badru) Banerjee and Tulsidas Balaram lent a different pitch to a celebratory mood that echoed through the prancing boots of a hundred kids.

In fact, it was the presence of the past greats that lightened up the media conference called by new sports minister Kanti Ganguly to mark the completion of the work. 

 “This is a big thing for Indian football and we should all be proud,” said Manna in his now feeble voice, his strong message reverberating across the stadium. 

Even more ecstatic was Tulsidas Balaram, who was quick to quash all apprehensions over the safety of players on the artificial turf, or the viability of organizing the IFA Shield matches before the Fifa certification comes in. 

“The other grounds we have in Kolkata are no heaven for footballers. Such a pitch was the need of the moment and we should go ahead without worrying to much about the teething problems. We should start playing from today,” he thundered. 

Balaram, a member of the Chuni Goswami-led team that won gold at the 1962 Asian Games, was also not ready to buy the adaptability problems that the teams in the Shield may face after playing on the other grounds in and around the city, saying adjustment is the name of the game. 

Utpal Ganguly, the IFA secretary, would still be taking the opinion of a few experts before the semi of the Shield to be convinced that safety of players in not compromised. He also plans to provide teams a few training sessions in addition to a practice match. 

PK Banerjee, another member of that 1962 team, suggested the area beyond the synthetic track be covered so that no slush is carried onto the field.



Leave a Reply