Folks from the City of Joy are passionate through and through and football is one of the things that gets them going! In the daily routine of the majority of Bengalis, there is always a dedicated time for the beautiful game. Whether it is the elderly folks debating heatedly at a tea stall, or young lads playing their hearts out in the field, football is one of the things that defines life in Kolkata! We spoke to a few of the city’s football lovers and quizzed them on their favourite places in Kolkata for playing football.
Every person growing up in Salt Lake City, in the north-east section of Kolkata, knows that the best way to find a quick game is to head to their nearest block park. Each block boasts a personal ground and here is where the neighbourhood children congregate to play their daily game.
Spandan Chatterjee, a resident of Salt Lake City, shares an insight into choosing the right block park to play in. “See, in Salt Lake itself we have a park in every block but some of those parks are not that large. One park though, where I’ve played a lot is the BH block park. It has a big football field,” he says.
Located in the heart of the city on the banks of the river Hooghly, ‘Maidan’ or Brigade Parade Ground is the largest urban park in the city, encompassing the iconic Eden Gardens cricket stadium and the Kolkata Race Course. The property belongs to the Indian Army so it is well maintained and safe.
A football fan familiar with the area, Krishnendu Biswas tells us what he knows about the ground. “Maidan is in the heart of the city and every day almost over 5,000 kids play there. It’s a huge area, where if you get a spot, you play. There is no fixed spot for anyone. That’s why it’s so popular. If you are looking for the main hub of football, it is definitely Maidan. People from the north, south, east and west all come to Maidan.”
Dion Sarkar, another football aficionado, is also familiar with the sprawling field. “The best place in Kolkata, I think, is Maidan. During weekends, that’s where most people go to play. I think Maidan is the best place because all year round, it has quite nice grass and great ambience.”
Located in the Salt Lake City campus of the university, this ground too is home to not just football but cricket and other sports as well. While it enjoys the patronage of quite a few folks from South Kolkata, entry is selective, and Krishnendu tells us more about it. “I play at the Jadavpur University (Salt Lake campus) grounds. It’s not too popular but a lot of people from the South Kolkata region play over here. Seven-a-side and nine-a-side football matches can easily be played on most of the grounds,” he says.
Dion resides very close to the Jadavpur University Main Campus grounds, so it is no surprise what his favourite hunting grounds are. “It is pretty near from my place, so I prefer going there,” he says.
It’s a popular hot spot for football lovers residing in the nascent township of NKDA (New Town Kolkata Development Authority). Here you have mandatory but reasonable fees in place. “It is close to the airport,” says Krishnendu. “Things are more organised and people are paying rent and booking the ground, NKDA Stadium in New Town is quite popular right now,” he adds.
Dion also chimes in with this: “You have to book that place. It’s not free. People like us, amateur football players play for fun, so paying for a ground is not that easy. We prefer a ground where we can play for free.”
Spandan also has a few suggestions for those residing outside Salt Lake, like Minto Park. “It is pretty big. There is another place called Deshapriya Park, which is also large enough to accommodate a proper 11-a-side football match.”
Meanwhile, Krishnendu suggests visiting Vivekananda Park, one of the few grounds in South Kolkata. Located near Golpark, it is quite a sizable ground. Lights are available so you can play on beyond dusk. Coaching has taken off in a big way here. Welcome additions to some, these coaching camps have erected fences to demarcate their training areas in the park.