Why Dr T Ao Football Championship failed to match ISL?



The inaugural match of the 6th Dr T Ao Football Championship between Assam and Sikkim hardly saw 100 spectators in total at the 35,000 capacity Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Sunday.


Empty galleries under floodlights definitely raise eyebrows especially when it comes to the most popular sport in the region. Despite a budget worth Rs 60 lakhs and a much hyped Celebrity Management Group being roped in for event management, the fact remains clear that hardly any initiatives have been taken to pull in the football fanatics of the city into the stands.


Assam Football Association secretary Ankur Dutta and Calcutta-based Celebrity Management Group executive Bhaskar Goswami had earlier announced the launch of a league on the lines of the Indian Super League which never materialised.


The Assam government has recently proposed to the North Eastern Council (NEC) to convert the regional tournament into North East Premier League affair but that doesn't remove questions regarding the outcome of the tournament. "We have sent a proposal to the DoNER ministry through the NEC, which funds the tournament, to make it more professional by converting it to a league on the lines of the ISL. The difference from the ISL will be that this league will be for players domicile of the eight states concerned because the meet is aimed at developing football among the natives of the region," Assam sports commissioner Ajay Tewari recently said.


The ongoing tournament which is yet to see fans making their way into the stands, hosting the tournament at the Sarusajai Sports Complex which lies on the outskirts of the city was definitely not a wise idea. The Nehru Stadium situated in the heart of the city has hosted some of the historic sporting moments of the region. Although the age old stadium lacks the infrastructure compared to Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium but the venue would have certainly offered more crowd.


Following the lines of the much fancied Indian Super League, the organisers decided to fix 7 pm as kick-off time. With some real cricketing excitement with the Indian Premier League matches being aired from 8 pm, the question remains whether the organisers did enough to catch the attention of sports lovers in the city.