Athletes are being treated like criminals, says Ashwini Nachappa

Days after the use of the Sree Kanteerava Outdoor Stadium for a football competition organised by the Central Armed Police Forces severely hampered athletes’ training routines, the sight of locked gates and armed gunmen guarding the entry points caused further consternation.

Former athletes protest the use of Sree Kanteerava Outdoor Stadium for footballing activities and hampering athletics.   -  Special arrangement

Days after the use of the Sree Kanteerava Outdoor Stadium for a football competition organised by the Central Armed Police Forces severely hampered athletes’ training routines, the sight of locked gates and armed gunmen guarding the entry points caused further consternation.

Read: Football or Athletics? Kanteerava Stadium caught in a crossfire

The use of the stadium for football has been a bone of contention ever since the State government, in 2014, leased the stadium for a period of three years to JSW (the owner of I-League football club, Bengaluru FC).

“We are being treated like criminals,” said Ashwini Nachappa, former International athlete and Karnataka Athletics Association vice-president, at a protest meeting organised at the stadium here on Thursday. “Apart from gunmen, for the last three days policemen from Sampangiram Nagar station have been guarding the field. Each gate is cordoned off. Such ill treatment for athletes will not be tolerated from this day onwards.”

Even as Ashwini clarified that football can co-exist with athletics, she said the athletes wanted a fair share. “Kanteerava has been sold to those with vested interests and those who want to kill athletics,” she alleged. “For the last three years we have been denied permission to use the field along with the track. We are not against football. Arrangements can be made peacefully where both parties are not affected.

“We have been requesting the Home Minister (Dr. G. Parameshwara) who is also the President of KAA to solve this. If he cannot do it with his own government, then who is running the show?”

Ashwini said that nearly two months had passed since Sports Minister Pramodh Madhwaraj’s intervention was sought. Even after the latter issued a written directive to the authorities to call for a meeting, nothing had been done.

“We appeal to the Chief Minister to get involved and resolve this issue immediately,” she said.

Also present on the occasion were athletes past and present, including former Olympian Kenneth Powell, Dronacharya Awardee N. Lingappa, and World championship medallist Anju Bobby George’s husband and coach Bobby George.

“I express my solidarity with this struggle,” said Bobby. “We have been here since 1994 and Anju has used all these facilities during her career. She couldn’t be here but on her behalf, I express my solidarity.”