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The Cooperage ground, a heritage structure, which has not been able to host I-League games for two and a half seasons, will now be equipped with stands for spectators...

It seems harsh that a city that is the home of three I-League clubs not have a ground to play their home matches on in their own city. Mumbai has not seen I-League action for two and a half seasons despite the fact that three clubs participating in the I-League (Mumbai FC, ONGC FC and Air India) this year are from the financial capital of India.

However, now fans in Mumbai can hope to see league action come the New Year as the Western India Football Association (WIFA) has obtained a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) for the construction of stands at the Cooperage ground in Mumbai which is a heritage structure. The lack of stands has seen Mumbai FC, Air India and ONGC FC play their home games at Pune's Balewadi Sports Complex and the Nehru Stadium in Delhi respectively.


Mumbai FC and Air India currently play their home games at the Balewadi Sports Complex, Pune

"The MHCC had requested a blueprint of our plans which we have already submitted and we should have the NOC in our hand by Saturday. The work on constructing the stands will begin as soon as we acquire the NOC. We are targeting the January 8 I-League game (Air India vs Salgaocar) and we think it’s achievable," said Henry Menezes, CEO of WIFA to The Times of India.

A Chinese company has been reportedly given the tender for construction of the stands and kiosks – all of which can be easily dismantled. "More than 50% of the material is at the ground and the rest should follow once we get the NOC. We have even asked officials from the company to fly down to India to complete the job as soon as possible," informed Menezes.

The Cooperage, which was inaugurated in 1993, was initially set for a December 23 opening when Mumbai FC plays East Bengal, but a police complaint filed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) against WIFA last week, citing construction without adequate permission, stalled it.

"We have submitted all the documents that the MHCC have asked from us. We should be able to wrap up the construction of stands, toilets and changing rooms within 15 days," said Menezes. The stadium already has light towers installed for evening games."

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