It's March now and the Indian summer isn't too far away. Still I-League matches in Kolkata are started at 1.45 pm under the scorching sun. The last weekend was tough for the players and fans alike. Temperatures reaching close to 37 degrees are football unfriendly conditions and the result was to be seen. As one would expect the matches played (Mohun Bagan vs Viva Kerala, East Bengal vs Mumbai FC) lacked pace and for the team falling behind it was a Herculan task to catch-up.
The other influenced factor are the spectators. Even on a bad day the Kolkata giants can easily draw 15,000 to 20,000 fans; but on this weekend both matches didn't draw more then 10,000 each. A warning to both clubs and the local organisers that fans shouldn't be taken for granted.
But what are the reasons for such an early kickoff? The main one's are said to be floodlights and television.
The floodlights at the Saltlake Stadium have been a topic since September 2004, when they first went off in a 2006 World Cup qualifier against Japan. Since then it has happened numerous times. Firstly that is due to poor wiring, no real maintenance and also the system has become old. Another reason is the cost of turning the lights on. That now stands at Rs 50,000 ; which is too much for the local organising committee.
The other factor is said to be television. With matches of only the trio from Kolkate live, they often have two matches on a weekend telecast live one after another. With matches elsewhere often starting at 4.00 pm they want the Kolkata game over before that as no floodlights are available.
So one will see if the Kolkata I-League matches in April/May will continue to kickoff at 1.45 pm or if they are pushed back to a more humane time for the players and fans.