Shillong, Aug 17: The Meghalaya government will “immediately” start construction on eight synthetic athletics tracks, 10 multipurpose indoor halls, 30 artificial football turfs and five natural turf grounds in the state, Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma announced in his Independence Day speech on Tuesday.

“Creating opportunities for children and young people to excel in sports is a deep commitment of my government,” Sangma said as he talked up the revival of the Meghalaya Games in 2020, hosting the North East Olympics last year, investment in infrastructure and the support being channelled to state sports associations.

The CM also mentioned that work on the renovation of the JN Stadium and indoor stadium in Shillong, PA Sangma Integrated Sports Complex in Tura and Wahiajer Stadium in West Jaintia Hills “will be completed soon”. A couple of these projects were recently in the news but not for the right reasons – the JN Stadium was nowhere near ready to host the Durand Cup, so the tournament was taken away from Meghalaya this year, while the football ground at the PA Sangma Complex witnessed a major and embarrassing wall collapse in June.

“In the next five years, we will build multipurpose indoor halls, synthetic tracks,
artificial and natural football turfs at every district, sub-divisional and block
headquarters,” Sangma said.

Last year the state government launched the STAR programme to identify youngsters with athletic potential who can then be given special training and direction in order to turn them into elite athletes, with the aim of getting a Meghalaya to represent India at the 2032 Olympics.

Sangma spoke about this programme in his speech and how it has put 15,000 children through a series of standardised tests with some remarkable results. On Wednesday the CM then met the nine athletes (pictured) who have been selected to receive special training. “The government has decided to invest about Rs 75 lakh on each of the super elite potentials,” he announced on Tuesday.

Accompanying the CM to visit the athletes yesterday was John Abraham, Bollywood actor and owner of Indian Super League side NorthEast United FC.

In his I-Day speech, Sangma said that his government is also working on a plan to build sport-specific academies and grassroots centres. “I am certain that all these interventions will inspire our children to excel in sports and for sports to become a way of life,” he said.

Yesterday, Sangma and Abraham discussed collaboration to establish a NorthEast United football academy in Shillong. “Look forward to exciting things ahead,” he wrote on social media.

Abraham has been to Shillong many times before and there have been mentions of the club and government working on an academy together for at least the last 5 years. NEUFC has also had tie-ups with two local clubs in the past – Shillong Lajong and Shillong United – neither of which worked out.

(Photo: Conrad Sangma/Facebook)

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