Kokrajhar is all set to host the Durand Cup, Asia’s oldest football tournament, and Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) CEM Pramod Boro has much to share and express to the world. In a recent interview with the media, the CEM spoke about many things. Here is an excerpt...
Q: Kokrajhar will now be on the country’s football map because of the Durand Cup. How do you think it will benefit the place?
Boro: Football is a very popular sport in Bodoland. For the past two years, we have been taking initiatives to improve the scenario by developing facilities, identifying talent, and organising important tournaments.
Last year, the Government of Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) successfully organised the Inter Sixth Schedule Premier League 2022 (ISPL), followed by league matches of the Hero National Santosh Trophy with the support of the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
Now, with the hosting of the Durand Cup, Kokrajhar will indeed be firmly established on the country’s football map. Being one of the most prestigious tournaments in the sports calendar of India, it is a matter of pride for us that Kokrajhar was considered one of the venues.
We are developing the specific infrastructure required to host the Durand Cup matches. For example, developing the grounds identified by the organisers, lighting facilities, and other modernisation would be permanent, creating long-term facilities for the sport. This will benefit the players, clubs, and associations considerably.
Q: What are the present facilities available for football in Kokrajhar, and how do you think the Durand Cup will change that?
Boro: At Kokrajhar, we have two grounds where such national-level matches have been played earlier. The SAI Centre Kokrajhar ground and the Kokrajhar District Sports Association (KDSA) ground are the venues where we plan to host the Durand Cup matches.
My government is supporting the development of these venues. Moreover, we have already allocated land in Kokrajhar to construct a 100 Crore Multipurpose Sports Stadium, as announced by Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma last year.
Overall, I am optimistic that the Durand Cup, which will facilitate the short-term development of sporting infrastructure, will lay strong foundations for the growth of sports in general and football in particular in the region.
Q: Kokrajhar provided some talented footballers for the nation. How is the talent identified, and what is done to ensure the kids follow the right path?
Boro: We are in talks with the AIFF to open two Football Academies in Bodoland, both for boys and girls, with an intake capacity of 50 each. To run such academies, we require A-level coaches.
We have already shortlisted coaches, whom we will send to AIFF for A-level certification. In the meantime, we will hire coaches on the recommendation of AIFF and start the academies shortly under the aegis of the Department of Sports, Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC). Once this is ready, we can streamline football talent scouting in the Region.
We are already supporting local-level clubs that perform excellently at the State and regional levels. The United Chirang Duar FC Team of Chirang District recently won the prestigious Bordoloi Trophy.
I have announced a cash prize of Rs 5 lakh to the top football clubs at the district level as some sort of Financial Assistance to improve their training conditions.
Q: How are the people of BTR excited about Kokrajhar hosting the Durand Cup?
Boro: The people of BTR are natural sports lovers and are undoubtedly very excited about the upcoming Durand Cup matches. The ISPL 2022 and Hero Santosh Trophy matches witnessed huge crowds beyond our expectations. Similarly, we expect huge numbers of sporting fans from across the Region to attend the Durand Cup.
The sport is a great unifying factor for our people. Football is almost like a traditional festivity during August and September, when various tournaments for different categories attract players from all age groups from every nook and corner of the Region. Especially the Under-13 and Under-15 categories are very popular among the youth.
One unique thing in our region is that football is very popular among our women. Women’s football has witnessed talented players from different sections of society participate.
Therefore, it is perhaps only natural that the excitement for the Durand Cup will gain momentum in the coming days.
Q: What do you think the BTR region lacks in sporting infrastructure, and how will tournaments like Durand help change it?
Boro: Since assuming charge of the Government two and a half years ago, my government has emphasised developing sports in BTR both in urban and rural areas.
We are already in the process of establishing mini-stadiums in all the sub-divisions of BTR. As I already mentioned, a 100-crore multipurpose facility is being established at Kokrajhar under the personal initiative of the Chief Minister of Assam.
Also, we are coming up with a state-of-the-art stadium at Udalguri and a National Sports University, one of the projects allotted to Bodoland as part of the BTR Peace Accord, 2020.
Within Budgetary constraints, the Department of Sports works daily to support sportspersons, District Sports Associations, Clubs, etc, at every level.
I hope for a visible turnaround in the sporting infrastructure within the next two years. This will indeed supplement the development of Sporting Talent in Bodoland, which has already produced national and international players in many sporting disciplines.
A prestigious tournament like the Durand Cup will open Bodoland to the country and the world. This is very significant. And I hope this will usher in a new era of the continued growth of sports in the Region.
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