Shillong, Feb 10: Concerns have been raised for the safety of footballers taking part in the Shillong Sports Association’s Second Division, the matches of which are being held at Third Ground, Polo, here.

An anonymous email was sent out to the press today by a concerned citizen who attended today’s match between Jongksha and Pohkseh. Attached were photographs taken from the side nearest to Second Ground, an area that TSR admittedly almost never sees.

The photos make for sad viewing as they show a stretch of drainage just off the pitch to be covered with makeshift bamboo poles. The drain used to be covered with cement blocks. These, over the years, started disintegrating. At first there were just one or two holes but it now appears that the entire stretch “has been completely ruined”. Although away from the playing area, it is conceivable that a footballer running towards the sideline could end up landing on the bamboo and either slipping or falling straight through. The drop would be around 3 to 4 feet.

The email began by expressing happiness that football has returned to Meghalaya after the disruption brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and that the SSA has “taken the lead” in organising the Fourth, Third and now Second Divisions, thereby giving a chance for players, especially those from rural areas, a chance to show off their talent.

The ground belongs to the Meghalaya Football Association (on a long-term lease) but the SSA are the tournament organisers. The artificial turf was laid more than 10 years ago and there has been little in the way of improvements at the ground since then, except the construction of the dressing rooms in the run-up to the 2016 South Asian Games.

“Now, if a player from either team suffers a serious injury who is to blame? The MFA? The funny part is that members of the SSA come and watch the game everyday, sitting idly in the middle of the dugout of the players,” the email concluded.

There are no ambulances stationed during SSA matchdays at the ground but, thankfully, as far as TSR knows, there haven’t been serious player injuries. We hope it stays that way.

(Photos contributed)

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