PANAJI: Dempo’s 2013 AFC Cup campaign hangs in the balance after it became evident that Goa’s only AFC approved stadium-the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium at Fatorda, Margao may not be available for Dempo’s AFC Cup matches in February/March 2013 due to the ongoing renovation of the stadium for the 2013 Lusofonia Games.
In a letter addressed to Mr Anil Kamat, Asst General Secretary (Competitions) of AIFF, Dempo coach cum secretary, Mr Armando Colaco has informed the AIFF that Dempo Sports Club will be withdrawing from the AFC Cup/Champions League if the Tilak Maidan, which is Goa’s only other I-League approved stadium at Vasco, is not allowed to host Dempo’s AFC Cup ties.
According to reliable sources, it is highly unlikely that the Nehru Stadium would be given the nod to host the AFC Cup ties since by February-March, the whole of the stadium would have to be taken up for renovation.
AFC regulations clearly state that there should be no construction activity in the vicinity of the stadium which means that it would be impossible for Dempo to hold their matches at Fatorda. The East, South and North stands of the stadium have already been closed and it is believed that in February-March, the West stand which houses the entrance and the VIP enclosures will be refurbished along with the main playing turf.
According to those in the know of things at the AIFF, the Tilak Maidan also is unlikely to get the nod owing to security concerns. At Tilak, the playing field is very close to the stands raising the question of security at the venue. Although the AIFF has agreed to hold the I-League matches at Tilak Maidan from January onwards, it is virtually impossible for Dempo to get the green signal of the AFC to hold their matches at Tilak leaving Dempo Sports Club to look for a venue outside Goa.
Dempo has in the past hosted their AFC Cup matches at the Gachibowli Sports Complex in Hyderabad during their momentous campaign enroute to the AFC Cup semi-finals in 2008. Two years back also they were forced to play their matches in Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune due to non-availability of floodlights at Goa. Matches at those venues however were characterized by poor crowd turnout and low visibility in the press leading many to believe that it was not worth for Dempo to host their matches outside Goa.