THE STADIUM CRISIS in Kolkata triggered by the Salt Lake Stadium going under renovation for the U-17 World Cup continues, and it has taken a new twist with Rabindra Sarobar, a long-unused stadium in the city, coming into the picture.
Although most games of the upcoming Calcutta Football League are going to be played in the old stadiums of the Maidan (East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting grounds) and the Barasat Stadium, those grounds are too small and not equipped to host the iconic Kolkata Derby between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. With the Salt Lake Stadium unavailable, the organizers had moved a Derby to Siliguri's Kanchenjunga Stadium last season and until now it looked like that this season's CFL Derby would also be played there.
But now the states sports ministry has said that they are working hard to refurbish the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium and if the work gets done by August, that's where the Derby will be held.
While the news that the Kolkata Derby will not be moved out of the city is great news, this development may have greater significance in terms of other competitions of the season, including the private tournament ISL.
Atletico de Kolkata, the ISL franchise from the city, also used the Salt Lake Stadium as its home ground and in its absence, they have been forced to look at other grounds, including the one in Siliguri. But the stadium in Siliguri is decidedly sub-standard for the enormity of a KolkataDerby as well as the flashy glitz ISL franchises like to put on around their matches. And contrary to the pan-Bengal fanbase of East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, the owners of ATK are not sure they will receive as much support (or revenue) from Siliguri as they will from Kolkata.
So in order to accommodate the needs of the cash rich private tournament, the state sports ministry is doing something they would not do for the I-League clubs: they are renovating a whole new stadium to make sure the matches stay in the city. And the Kolkata Derby in CFL is only meant to be a test-drive for the ISL games that will follow in October.