First multi-sport artificial turf ground in India

The 103m by 65m field with floodlights is the jewel in the crown for Fr Agnel Multipurpose high school which has a Rs 7-cr sports complex with a swimming pool, basketball court, shooting range and skating rink.`The ground is a blessing for Mumbai. Hats off to the school,” said M M Somaya, former India hockey captain. Synthetic grass enables players to practice in the four months of monsoon too and it also reduces the chances of injury. Another hockey great, Dhanraj Pillai, who advised the school, felt that “a great beginning has been made”.

Hailing it as a “big step”, former India footballer Henry Menezes said this would go a long way in imparting basic training and set an example for government sports bodies. All three former sportsmen said this was the first time they were hearing of a dual use artificial turf ground in India.

Fr Agnel high school has not only encouraged sports but over the past 25 years it has also set up its own training facilities with corporate funding. Several of its students such as Lekha Kamath, Jyotsna Pansare and Shrinjini Sahay have broken records at the the national inter-school swimming championships. These students excel in academics as well. Over the past three years, Fr Agnel’s students have outscored the board toppers with the 25 marks given for playing in state-level tournaments.

“As of now, we are looking at the artificial turf ground only from the training point of view and children from other schools too are welcome. However, if we get the opportunity, we may use it to host tournaments,” said Fr Saturnino Almeida, former principal and now managing director of Fr Agnel’s Technical Complex.

The only other artificial turf ground in Mumbai is at the Mumbai Hockey Association (MHA) at Churchgate and it cannot be used for football. “The thickness of the turf at MHA is 12 mm whereas the `Real FT 45′ at Fr Agnel high school is 45 mm thick,” said Deepak Khanolkar, India representative of GreenFields BV. According to him, the turf at Fr Agnel high school is being laid keeping in mind the heat in India and it will have sprinklers.

There are about 40 artificial turf grounds for hockey in the country. As for football, the artificial turf grounds are at Chaugule Sports Complex in Goa and at Salt Lake city, Kolkata. The international football body, FIFA, plans to fund ten artificial turf grounds for football in Indian cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore and Goa by the end of the year.

The pace of the game on artificial turf is faster as the ball travels at a greater speed as compared to natural grass. All international hockey matches are played on artificial turf but in football it is restricted to tier-2 matches, which includes the nationals.