As high drama unfolds on South African football fields, a different kind of drama — no less passionate — is unfolding off the field in Bangalore. The reason? Authorities have shut the trophy rooms of the Mars Football Club and the Gowthama Football Club (GFC) in Gowthamapura on grounds of “unauthorised occupancy”.
On June 21, just 10 days after the local football-crazy community unveiled a gigantic football in an exuberant ceremony to celebrate the commencement of the FIFA World Cup, Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) officials sealed the rooms adjacent to the clubs' local ground, which had, among other things, all the trophies the two had acquired in various tournaments.
Gowthampura, in East Bangalore, has a glorious tradition in football, having produced some of the best and brightest who have played for India, including Olympian S.A. Basheer and P. Kannan, known as the “Asian Pele”.
In fact, the only statue of Pele in the city is located here.
“We have been using this ground for a long time, and have, despite money problems, kept the clubs afloat. Football is more than a pastime here, it is the only chance for some of these children to know a better life,” said a footballer who did not want The Hindu to print his name. “There are certain things we cannot do without, and at the height of the World Cup, the authorities has deprived us of the one thing we care about the most.”
“We have submitted letters requesting the reopening of our locker and trophy rooms, but so far have received no response. We intend to protest if action is not taken swiftly,” he added.
In response, a BBMP official said: “They have no written permission to use the facilities there. Their use of the premises was completely unauthorised and we received complaints from several locals. After receiving their requests in writing, we are now processing them. We will ensure that use of the facilities is granted to the rightful owner.”