SPORTS | Guwahati lacks sports infrastructure for training practice
GUWAHATI: Even though the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has more than often touted Guwahati as the “Sports Capital of India”, the residents of the city, however, does not find the sports infrastructure to be adequate.
This was revealed in a survey conducted by G Plus – Let’s Talk Guwahati – in which, more 10,000 people from more than 100 locations of the city were asked about various issues pertaining to the city.
When asked if Guwahati’s sports infrastructure justifies it to be dubbed “Sports Capital of India”, 81.2 per cent were not too impressed. This comprises 32.2 per cent of the respondents who said that the infrastructure is not adequate enough while the rest 56 per cent were of the opinion that the infrastructure needs more improvement. Only 11.8 per cent of the respondents find the sports infrastructure adequate.
This doesn’t come as a shock as the city has only one or two infrastructural facilities for a particular sport that fall short in catering to the sports enthusiasts here.
While sporting disciplines like football and cricket have three to four places for practice and coaching, disciplines like table tennis, athletics and swimming do not have enough facilities.
“The city does not have adequate infrastructure for indoor games. In fact, the concept that indoor sports need proper infrastructure such as synthetic mats and specific equipment for specific sporting disciplines besides just a concrete building was acknowledged by the state government after the South Asian Games in 2016. It still has a long way to go,” said Nagen Bongjung, general secretary of United Karate-do Association of Assam.
Infrastructure good for mega sporting events, not enough for training
There’s no denying the fact that after the BJP came to power at the Centre in 2014 and then in the state in 2016, the city saw an unprecedented surge in national and international sporting events here.
However, since most of the sporting facilities have to be maintained as per the international standards, it is not possible to allow training in the same, which leave the would-be sportspersons and youths still struggling with dearth of spaces.
While the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex at Sarusajai, being the only international standard football stadium in the Northeast, is confined to hosting those matches, the ACA Cricket Stadium at Barsapara too has so far been confined to hosting Ranji Trophy and other national and international cricket events.
The field in the Nehru Stadium that earlier used to host both cricket and football matches has also been refurbished into a football field where the state leagues are being held now.
Hence, the city, barring the NFR football field at Maligaon, IOCL field at Noonmati which are mostly confined to its respective authorities, the city doesn’t have many open fields that allow players to practice.
The same goes for cricket as there are only a few fields such as Latasil field and the Judge’s field. Meanwhile, for indoor sports, the young sportsmen are confined to the Deshbkakta Tarun Ram Phookan Indoor Stadium at the RG Baruah Stadium Complex only as the LNIPE indoor stadium, which is of a better quality, cannot be used by city youths due to its distance from the city. The Sarusajai Stadium indoor facilities, on the other hand, are again being maintained for international events.
“The city is not converting into a sports capital, but a destination for hosting international matches, which are two different things. Hosting these tournaments has brought the city national and international focus, but it has not helped in developing sports in the city. That needs adequate infrastructure for training, conducting local matches, to create a competitive environment for the players which still need a lot of work in the state,” said Rakesh Gupta, a resident of Ulubari.
After a long drought of eight years since the National Games in 2007, which can also be credited for most of the sports infrastructure in the city, Guwahati hosted the South Asian Games in 2016, and thus began a surge of international and national sporting events here. It was during the inauguration of the Games when the then union minister of state for sports and youth affairs, now, Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal had first announced about making the city a “Sports Capital of India”. This followed three major International sporting events – nine matches of FIFA Under-17 World Cup, a T20 match between India and Australia and the AIBA World Youth Women's Boxing Championship – in 2017. This year, Sarusajai Stadium hosted the 58th National Inter State Senior Athletics Championships. The city also hosts the male adult football franchise, Indian Super League every year.
Inadequate local sporting competitions main reason for lack of player emergence
The sports associations in the city have allegedly failed to conduct adequate local sporting tournaments, a reason why the city is lacking in producing enough promising sports people.
While the Sports Authority of India has been elementary in finding talents like Hima Das and training them here at the authority’s infrastructure at Paltan Bazar in the city, there still are not enough school level and state level tournaments being organized by the sports associations.
Assam has a state sports association affiliated to its national parent body for almost every sport with its head office bearers at Guwahati and a district association for the Kamrup district affiliated under it.
“But, when it comes to conducting tournaments, they are not very regular about it. The directorate has set up a fixed number of inter district matches and inter school matches which the associations have to conduct, but often, citing lack of funds, the associations do not hold those. That’s why the directors have also invited private clubs and sports organisers to conduct the same, at least in school levels. But more such tournaments need to be held to create a competitive environment in the city and the state,” Lakhya Konwar, Member Secretary of the State Level Advisory Committee for Students and Youth Welfare, said.
Sajjad Zaheer Hussain, former Ranji player and a member of the Association of Cricketers for Assam said, “Forget about inter-school tournaments, the Assam Cricket Association (ACA) had not been able to conduct district matches regularly. In a governing body meeting last year, the ACA had asked the district association to vouch in with funds which will be reimbursed later, but none could cough up any.”
“International matches are especially helpful if the state holds local matches before and after the international match so that the players remain excited about it. With no follow up action, merely holding an international match will not suffice,” Hussain added.