The stadium, which was supposed to cater to international-level footballers, can only get by with low-level players due to poor infrastructure.
In what was supposed to be an international standard stadium, the Bangalore Football Stadium has been largely hosting low-level football matches due to a lack of funding and controversy over its tender
The only funds the stadium gets are from rentals which bring in essential funding to the stadium while it continues to be in deplorable conditions.
M Satyanarayan, General Secretary of KSFA, said that the stadium does not charge fees for the tournament it hosts. Instead, it rents out the stadium at night to private organizations, in exchange for a lump sum amount of money, which has not been enough for maintenance.
M Satyanarayan said, “The stadium is run by the Karnataka State Football Association (KSFA) exclusively and there is no additional funding involved. We conduct various tournaments, including youth-level football matches, Santosh trophy qualifiers, etc.”
In addition to youth-level matches, the stadium has been hosting Indian women’s senior team matches as well. However, it has been unable to host any other high-level matches, partly due to poor conditions of the stadium, coupled with the artificial turf.
The turf was recently changed during the lockdown, with the KSFA funding Rs. 1.7 crore to install new artificial turf. However, the Indian Super League (ISL) team Bengaluru FC and the Indian national men’s football team do not play here due to artificial turf, which is considered unsafe for football players as it may lead to injuries.
As a result, more prominent football matches including the Indian team conduct matches at the nearby Kanteerava Stadium. There have been recent tensions between the KSFA and the Karnataka Athletics Association over the usage of Kanteerava Stadium for football matches.
Erosion of cement in the stand, steel construction rods jutting out of the concrete on the upper stand, gutkha spit all over the bathrooms, and women’s washrooms in a seemingly unusable state – this is the story of Bangalore Football Stadium. Moreover, the artificial makeover of the turf keeps more players away in fear of injuries.
The stadium was earmarked for a project that would have made it one of the most prominent and flagship football stadiums in India. But eight years on, the overseeing body of the stadium, Karnataka State Football Association (KSFA), has not witnessed any progress on the tender that has been put on hold.
M Satyanarayansaid, “I have sent five letters to the company that won the contract. They are yet to give us any details. They say that they are working on it.”
Ozone Group won the tender for the re-construction of the Bangalore Football Stadium. The project was proposed in order to make the stadium an international standard facility with underground car parking and a revamped gallery. KSFA awarded the contract to Ozone Group in 2015, but no progress has happened since.
“It is the job of the company to go to the government and seek permission to carry out the project. In this case, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has not approved Ozone Group to the work,” Satyanarayan said.
Shiladitya, a football player coming from Siliguri, West Bengal, said that the condition of the stands and washrooms inside the stadium is poor.
While the project hangs in the air, footballers must use the stadium in its poor condition. The stadium has now been conducting football matches for lower leagues and youth competitions. “No matter what happens with the re-development project, we cannot afford to stop conducting matches in the stadium. Despite the turmoil, players use the ground every day,” Satyanarayan added.
In an attempt to popularise the stadium, the KSFA revived the prestigious Stafford Cup last month, featuring 12 teams across India. The competition ended early March and attracted an overall crowd of around 78,000. But KSFA faced issues conducting the tournament, including teams opting out at the last minute.
“Due to a couple of teams opting out, we had to call up two more teams from Bengaluru,” said Kumar, Treasurer at KSFA.
David, an official at JSports Football Coaching Centre, Bengaluru, said, “The redevelopment project of Bangalore Football Stadium could be crucial not just for Bengaluru but for the state of Karnataka.
“It is a shame for Bengaluru to not have a proper football stadium, considering how much footballing talent the city produces. Compare this to Kolkata and other cities, it is indeed a matter of sadness. While I am not blaming one person or authority for the lack of development, it is the duty of the collective authorities to make sure the project gets done quickly,” he said.