Shillong, Jan 22: The football community has been left disappointed and angry after the JN Stadium’s football pitch and synthetic running track were used to park cars as part of the formal celebration of Meghalaya’s golden jubilee here yesterday.

Video posted by The Shillong Times on social media has been shared numerous times, including by Redeem Tlang of FC Goa and Hyderabad FC assistant coach Thangboi Singto. Both have had plenty of football experience at the ground, having previously been at Shillong Lajong. The former described the scene as “disrespectful” and the latter wrote that it was a “sad pic of a football stadium” on their Instagram stories.

For yesterday’s 50th anniversary celebrations, the state government function saw a huge stage erected on the turf and canopy erected all around. Vehicles, according to The Shillong Times’ video, were parked on the artificial grass (and tyre marks were seen on the pitch) and a large crane was parked on the track.

The artificial turf at the ground is around 10 years old now and is in rather poor shape. The track is actually younger but is in even worse condition.

Perhaps the government saw no problem with using the facilities in this way as Chief Minister Conrad Sangma has publicly promised, as recently as last month, that that both will be replaced soon – the synthetic track with a new one and the artificial pitch with natural grass.

Over the years the JN pitch has seen all sorts of non-football activities – from marching bands and mass synchronised dances to concerts. TSR even recalls a helicopter landing there, but that might have been on the Third Ground pitch. Anyway, we hope that the government does not allow such things on the promised natural turf.

One more thing to say about the artificial turf is that it hasn’t been a great surface for a long time now. When he was coach of Bengaluru FC (then in the I-League), Ashley Westwood described the JN pitch as “possibly the worst” they had to play on. And that was six years ago. It has not improved since.

Still, it’s easier just sticking an artificial pitch into the ground. A natural turf requires patience, expertise, good sense and money to keep it up to scratch – we can’t help but wonder if Meghalaya has all four, even 50 years on.

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