In another shocking instance of the step-motherly treatment meted out to the I-League, the match between Indian Arrows and Churchill Brothers was played on the practice pitch of the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar instead of the main pitch.
Churchill eventually won the match 1-0 thanks to Willis Plaza's 40th-minute strike. But the Churchill win has been overshadowed by the venue of the game.
In a video shared by the official Twitter handle of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), Indian Arrows and Churchill Brothers are seen warming up on the practice ground.
The floodlights of the main Kalinga Stadium, a multi-discipline venue where athletics and football events take place, are clearly visible in the background of this video.
The match is not being televised on Star either.
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After running promos, calling this the first game that the Indian Arrows, the development side of the AIFF, would play at their new 'home' Kalinga Stadium, the I-League organisers were forced to host the game on the practice pitch instead of the main ground!
Sources close to Sportskeeda said the main pitch at the Kalinga Stadium was dug up recently to allow the grass to regrow. The venue was rented out for private and commercial events recently and the central pitch was dug up soon after the Hockey World Cup, which concluded on Dec 16.
When the AIFF found out that the Kalinga Stadium was unavailable for the match, it requested the Odisha government's Sports department to make alternate arrangements.
The Odisha government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the AIFF for the promotion of the Indian football team. According to the MoU, the Odisha state government will "act as the host of the AIFF National Team Camps as well as of the home of Indian Arrows."
The MoU adds that the "training and connected infrastructure like gymnasiums, swimming pool, etc, will be housed at the Kalinga Stadium Complex".
Since the Indian Arrows were anyway playing their home matches at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack, sources close to SK said the AIFF had requested the Odisha Sports Department to permit the match to take place at the Barabati again.
However, the Odisha Sports Department turned down AIFF's request as it was hosting a state-level sports meet at the Barabati Stadium, which is close to Bhubaneswar.
There was no option of rescheduling the match as well as Churchill Brothers had already made their travel arrangements prior to landing at Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Odisha.
This forced the organisers to conduct the match at the practice ground itself. The kick-off time was also moved from 5 pm to 2 pm since the training pitch does not have floodlights.