Four decades ago, a skilful band of players unfurled a brand of football that captured the imagination of the spectators before going the whole hog to win the State’s maiden Santosh Trophy.
What made that exhibition of football possible was the quality of the Maharaja’s College ground that hosted the tournament in 1973.
“The turf prepared by FACT was a dream,” recollected C.C. Jacob, a former Indian international and a member of that maiden Santosh Trophy-winning Kerala team. Two decades later, yet another State team repeated that feat at the same venue.
That ground, steeped in such rich sporting history, is not even a shadow of what it was when the same national championship returns to the city on Thursday.
Fate has it that when Santosh Trophy matches get underway at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium, the Maharaja’s stadium, a few kilometres away, is not even fit to host practice sessions.
The Goan team turned down the offer to use the ground for their practice sessions, as they found the hard pitch too risky for players.
That the team coach and former international Anthony D’souza found the Ambedkar stadium, which is in a state of neglect, far more acceptable tells a tale. K.M.I. Mather, president, Kerala Football Association, said that the ground will continue to be in a bad shape as long as throwing events like discus and hammer are held there. “Such events leave a dent in the ground. KFA had spent huge amounts for the maintenance of the ground in the past (till it was taken over by an administrative committee),” he said.
The extreme dry spell dating back to last November has now taken its toll on the Maharaja’s.
A well, a major water source, has dried up, hitting watering of the ground and leaving many patches devoid of grass.
The ground was watered last month by buying 12,000 litres of water for more than Rs. 4,000. But it’s an unfeasible alternative.
A member of the administrative committee, chaired by the District Collector and composed of members of the Kerala Sports Council and representatives of Maharaja’s College and is entrusted with the maintenance of the synthetic track and the ground, said that the possibility of digging a bore well before the condition of the ground turn worse is under active consideration.