WIFA devoid of ground

While EPL clubs have been building a fan base by holding special camps in Mumbai, the Western India Football Association (WIFA) isn’t getting a facility to even organise pre-tournament camps for the Maharashtra team that will be playing the Santosh Trophy.

For quite some time, the association has been trying to identify grounds in the city. With Cooperage undergoing renovation, WIFA is likely to opt for the St Xavier’s ground in Parel — a compromise necessitated by circumstances.

St Xavier’s conducts many lower division tournaments for the Mumbai District Football Association. Not only is it an open ground, the conditions there aren’t conducive for top quality football.

WIFA secretary Souter Vaz admitted that getting a suitable practice facility hasn’t been easy. “We have to go elsewhere,” he said, referring to the makeover in Cooperage. The cricket season, as always, has played a part in football getting marginalised.

“We went to RCF Chembur but they have their own cricket and football camps. Similarly, the Priyadarshini Park hosts its summer camps. We were also keen on the University ground in Marine Lines, but it is reserved for the IPL,” he added.

The Santosh Trophy, which will be held in Orissa, will commence on May 11. The tournament will be inaugurated simultaneously in four different venues: Cuttack, Bhubaneshwar, Sambalpur and Bargarh.

The All India Football Federation wanted the tournament to be held for the U-23 age group. However, state associations opposed the move, forcing the AIFF to change the format. The 2012 Santosh Trophy, thus, will involve seniors.

In addition, the AIFF has decided that 16 teams will play the finals, while eight sides from the previous edition will be eligible for direct entry, hosts Orissa being one of them. The rest of the seven places will be decided by qualifications.

The 16 teams, divided into groups of four, will compete in a round-robin format. The top teams from each group will earn a place in the semifinal. The final will be played on May 27.

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