Blanket ban on IPL matches due to water scarcity not right, says Praful Patel
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Blanket ban on IPL matches due to water scarcity not right, says AIFF President Praful Patel

New Delhi: Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and All India Football Federation (AIFF) President Praful Patel on Wednesday said that in general a blanket ban on sporting activities, such as the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) because of issues like scarcity of water was not right though a decision by a court should be accepted.

Patel, a former Union Minister, was responding when asked if football grounds also use lots of water like cricket stadia in the light of IPL matches being ordered by the Bombay High Court to be shifted out of Maharashtra from 1 May onwards due to drought situation in the state.

IPL matches have been shifted out of the Wankhede stadium and Maharashtra due to drought. PTI

IPL matches have been shifted out of the Wankhede stadium and Maharashtra due to drought. PTI

"I will tell you, to the misfortune, most of the stadia in this country are of cricket and in Maharashtra we have very few football stadia. These football stadia used very little water and the one in Mumbai is a synthetic turf and we need very little water," he said.

"But let me be honest, sport in general, cricket or otherwise, we should not completely clamp down on these activities. I appreciate there is a water scarcity and it was said that non potable water was to be used and in limited quantity.

Blanket ban was not right but at the same time, what the court has mentioned in terms of IPL is that IPL is not an event like a World Cup. IPL is more a tournament. In that case what the court has said it should be accepted," Patel said at a football function. 

Asked about reports of the government dropping former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's name from Rajiv Gandhi Khel Abhiyan Yojna (RGKAY), Patel said, "It is unfortunate to bring politics in sport. There is politics of sport but we don't need to bring it.

"I think name has no meaning, even the new name, if it does not do justice to the project or programme or to the players."

The NCP leader also brushed aside the political discourse on whether Kohinoor diamond should be brought back or not as a non-issue which should not have been racked up.

"This issue of Kohinoor from what I read from the media is much ado about nothing. I don't know why it has been racked up.

"Let the Kohinoor be wherever it is. And let India shine like a Kohinoor, that is more important," he said.

Patel was attending a function at the Embassy of France in New Delhi in which an MoU was signed to send three Indian young footballers to FC Metz academy, one of the best in Europe, to be sponsored by the AIFF.

The function was attended by French Ambassador to India Francois Richier who pledged his government's support to the initiative. Anirudh Thapa of Dehradun, Jerry of Mizoram and Prasanjit Chakraborty of West Bengal would train at the FC Metz Academy in France initially for three months.

"These three youngsters will train at FC Metz Academy for three months and the AIFF will bear all the expenses. This is a beginning and we will expand this kind of initiatives in future. Even the players who will be part of the Indian team for next year's FIFA U-17 World Cup will be sent to different academies of the world once the event is over in October 2017," he said.

"We will have a review after three months (whether these three youngsters will continue at FC Metz) but I am sure they will continue. The review would be just a formality I think," he added.

Asked how different would this initiative be from the earlier ones, which had seen Indian youngsters going to academies in Europe but lost track later, Patel said, "There should not be any comparison with this one and the others in the past.

"In many cases, the AIFF just endorses or agrees to a private initiative to train an Indian player in Europe or other countries. But this one is the initiative of the AIFF itself and we are starting this kind of initiative."

Asked if I-League and the successful Indian Super League will be merged in the near future, Patel said, "We are into framing a new structure (to make the two leagues as one) and all these will be given a proper direction."

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