"Nowadays everybody is playing and watching cricket. Only some corners are interested about football," says Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) secretary, Biswaroop Dey with an assured nonchalance, in an interview with the Times Now.
Kolkata is supposedly the heralded as the 'mecca' of Indian football, and also home to two of the most supported clubs in the whole of Asia, let alone the country. The context of the said statement is even more remarkable as the reason why the cricket and footballing fraternity are at apparent loggerheads is because of the Salt Lake Stadium, which is the official home to four I-League clubs in the country.
Keeping with the traditions, the opening ceremony of the IPL would be held in the city of the winners, in this case Kolkata. Since Eden Gardens, the destination for the game played over 22 yards needs to be kept protected for the actual event, Salt Lake Stadium which has witnessed some of the biggest names in football playing on the hallowed turf right from Pele and Maradona to Messi and Forlan, will be home to 'entertainers' to kick off the 'grand spectacle' that is IPL.
It is believed that around two weeks ahead of the IPL opening ceremony that the stadium would be booked for the preparations which means that several football games have to shifted to another venue or possibly reschedule the matches altogether. The relative high handedness and arrogance with which football is treated as a poor step child to cricket is appalling to say the least, if not downright disrespectful.
Dey had also calmly suggested that the football matches could be easily played at Barasat or Kalyani if they did acquire the Salt Lake Stadium, as if cricket had a divine right to be top priority no matter what.
The alacrity with which he dictated apparent terms for a sport that was not under his purview speaks volumes about the mentality of the sport administrators of the country. Then when you consider that this is for a private enterprise, and not where team India turns up, the degree of contempt displayed, goes a few notches higher.
"To disrupt an ongoing league when commitments have already been given for an entertainment event is a reflection of the mindset of the people who run the sport," pointed Kushal Das, the general secretary of the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
Some ray of hope still remains if this debacle had to be prevented, as Madan Mitra, the Sports Minister of West Bengal, has noted that no such request of using the Salt Lake Stadium for IPL had yet come to him, and he reassured the football fans in the country that no decision detrimental to them would be taken.
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