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Assam football community protests allocation of Guwahati's Nehru Stadium for Ranji Trophy

THE NEHRU STADIUM IN Guwahati, one of the few quality grounds for football, has been given away to cricket, forcing the football community to take to the streets in protest.

The arena, which serves as a home ground for the Assam state football team and state level clubs like ASEB SC & FC Green Valley. Several other local-level clubs and academies also use it for practice purposes. According to All Assam Football Players' Association, the Nehru Stadium is the only quality ground in Guwahati that's available for local football teams. The other football ground, the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Sarusajai, is expensive and only used by the ISL club NorthEast United.

But now, the Nehru Stadium has been allotted for Ranji Trophy matches, despite the Assam Cricket Association having its own stadium - the Dr Bhupen Hajarika Cricket Stadium - already available to themselves. This means the Nehru Stadium's pitch will be redeveloped for cricket and the local football clubs & academies will be left without a ground in Guwahati.

In protest, the All Assam Football Players' Association as well as several other members of the football community took out a protest march on Sunday, decrying what they called an encroachment upon football's infrastructure by cricket.

This has been a recurring theme in Indian sports. In the past, the West Bengal government came under criticism for renting out the Salt Lake Stadium for IPL opening ceremonies, forcing football clubs to play matches away in Kalyani Stadium, which did not have floodlights at that time; causing losses in terms of ticket sales and TV viewership.

Even recently FC Goa had to fend off an attack from the local panchayat, who had dug up their practice ground with the intention of turning it into a cricket ground.

Assam, which has been one of the traditional hotbets of Indian football and the home of the prestigious Bordoloi Trophy, has seen football infrastructure development in many parts of the state but the Guwahati-Dispur metropolitan area seems to be lagging behind.


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