An academy or a cowshed?

Dimapur | February 25 : When one hears the name ‘Sports Academy’, a vibrant image of a sports institute with state of the art infrastructure and training facilities is instinctively projected in the mind. The state government’s lone sports academy at Dimapur though is far or to be more appropriate, rather below from what the hallowed expression - ‘academy’- would suggest.  
Formerly known as ‘State Sports Hostel’, the present ‘State Sports Academy’ for football is located inside the sprawling State Stadium Complex now under-construction. It was established way back in the year 1974. Nearly four decades on, the academy is nothing more than a cowshed, albeit it’s human occupants.
“The hostel’s (academy) infrastructure is utterly deplorable”, remarked one budding footballer now a ward at the academy. And true the words were. A section of the local media gave a visit to the academy on Friday, February 25.
The myriad grieves ranged from haywire electrical fittings, not enough beds and ceiling fans, only two working toilets, broken or non-existent window panes, leaking roofs, an out of service ‘reverse osmosis’ water purifier and so on.  The academy presently is home to 29 young boys from around the state, mostly in their teens, with dreams of making it big one day. Their big dreams notwithstanding, the wards are compelled to live, crammed into 12 dingy living rooms. To top it off, atleast 4-6 wards share one room each, some even sleeping on the eroding concrete floor.
The reason being not enough beds and in summer their predicament is compounded even more. Of the many rooms, only 7-8 ceiling fans are in working condition. A few rooms are yet to be installed with cooling fans.
For a sportsman the day starts real early. Now, how can the wards report on time for early morning training, when they have only two useable toilets? In reality, the academy has ten toilets, some jammed and without doors and some on the verge of falling off. The conditions of the bathrooms are no better. The boys do their washing in the open. If that was not enough, the bathrooms and toilets are devoid of any lighting facility.
Going into their dining room, there was one television set though not in proper working order. The roof leaks during the rains and the floor was potholed with eroding plaster. The room was installed with a water purifier which has gone out of service. They have a makeshift water purifier in the form of a concrete water vessel filled with sand and pieces of bricks.
They also have a gym with some modern equipment which was installed in 2008. The wards said they no longer use them for the equipments are crying for repairs and maintenance.
The chimneyless kitchen was a sight to behold, the walls and the ceiling darkened from years of exposure to wood smoke. It had one table used for keeping miscellaneous kitchen trappings. Its flat top was literally tearing itself off. It also had a makeshift thermocol (Styrofoam) basket for keeping washed utensils.
The present state of the academy is in stark contrast to the present policy of the state government which is harping for developing youth related activities, particularly sports. The Chief Minister himself being an ardent sportsman.
Inspite of the pitiable condition of the academy, the wards are proving their mettle. They have been regularly bringing laurels to the state competing at the prestigious national level Subroto Cup. The wards had emerged champs in the 2008 edition of the event while the same year they were runners-up at the PYKKA (Panchyat Yuva Krida Aur Khel Abhiyan) national level under-16 football tournament. The wards from the academy had also been runners-up at the 2008 and 2009 editions of the Subroto Cup. In 2010, they were one of the semi-finalists at the same tournament.
If that was not enough one boy, Imliakum, from the academy was selected by the Shillong Lajong FC in the under-14 category. Three more made it to the reputed Pune FC in the under-19 category. They were Sanenlo Kath, Kivi Sumi and Kekrieletuo. The I-League team- Chirag FC, it is learned is coming next month scouting for more talent.