The renowned administrator expressed hope for the return of Indian Super League to the national capital.
Delhi Football Association president and former FIFA South Central Asia Development Officer Shaji Prabhakaran has played a key role in the growth of Football in Delhi.
Shaji Prabhakaran joined Khel Now’s ‘Beyond The Scores’ podcast recently. He sat down with host Ashish Negi and spoke candidly about the Ambedkar Stadium in Delhi and its renovation.
Shaji Prabhakaran spoke about the renovation of Ambedkar Stadium, the possibility of getting the stadium, a private body owning an ISL team from Delhi, and much more. This article pertains to Part 2 of the interview, which covers the future of Ambedkar Stadium.
Ambedkar Stadium Renovation
Shaji Prabhakaran started the conversation by speaking about Football Delhi and its upcoming projects. He also spoke about the Ambedkar Stadium, which once hosted the Challenge Cup and the Nehru Cup.
The atmosphere at the stadium when India won the Challenge in 2008 proved the worth of the Ambedkar Stadium. We’ve also come across many instances in the past when people waiting outside the stadium wanted to get in, despite the stadium being full.
“The stadium is strategically located. Metro is at the door and the centre of cricket is also next door. Therefore, as per location is concerned and as per connectivity is concerned, it’s like a European stadium. You have a bus stand nearby, you have a metro, everything is there.”
The Delhi Football president mentioned the Ambedkar Stadium needs a complete renovation and they have the required space to turn it into a 20-22k seater stadium. This would also open room for official games to be hosted in the national capital.
Shaji is looking to meet the LG and pitch a plan for the renovation of Ambedkar Stadium. He said, “We are working on it. My project’s plan will be ready within a week’s time. Hopefully, if he gives us his time, we’ll be able to present that to him.”
The renovation of the Ambedkar Stadium can change the whole image of football in the State. This will also contribute to getting more fans to watch the sport.
Possibility of getting Ambedkar Stadium on lease
Shaji Prabhakaran opened up on the changes of getting the Ambedkar Stadium on lease. He said:
“Since I became the president, one of my objectives was to get this on lease. We have reached to a certain level but by that time, the mayor changes. This is the 4th time we are going to approach.”
A Private body will bid for an ISL team once Ambedkar Stadium is on lease
Shaji was confident that the redevelopment of Ambedkar Stadium would change Delhi’s fate. According to him, once we have the Stadium re-built, it’ll be used for 365 days. Fans will reach the stadium in numbers to watch matches and it will change the culture of Delhi.
“It’s just a matter of time! There will be a team in the ISL from Delhi. There will be more than one team from Delhi in the I-League.”
He also stated that private bodies will look to invest in the stadium once Football Delhi gets the stadium on lease. “The moment you get a lease. They will not wait for the stadium to be ready. They will come with that opportunity itself to Invest in the stadium and bid for the team.”
Clubs should look for long-term goals
Shaji mentioned that one should always have a long-term approach as results do take time. When asked about Delhi Dynamos switching their base from Delhi to Odisha, the Football Delhi president said, “They should have stayed here for ten years.”
The former FIFA South Central Asia Development Office also stated about the return on investment from Delhi. “In terms of investment, Delhi will give you a higher return on investment per dollar than what you get in any other city.”
Thus, one should always look into long-term goals and not short-term ones. Having a club in the capital city adds more value to your club as “fans are much vocal and brands want to connect.”