The indoor stadium at Sawalwada in Pernem, Goa, was one of the last to have been completed before the Covid pandemic struck and forced the postponement of the 37th National Games.
Despite not being used for the recently-concluded games, the stadium’s upkeep by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) lead many to believe that everything happened for the best.
“We had taken the place on lease, as our quarters were not ready near Mopa airport. Now that they are nearing completion, we should be moving out in about four months,” disclosed CISF Assistant Sub Inspector Mir.
The inability of the government to use the indoor facility at Sawalwada for the games had irked sports enthusiasts and a few locals were upset as the premises was not available for the local youth. However, with news seeping in that the sports facility should be available in a few months, smiles are returning to the faces of the locals.
“We were upset at first when Sports Minister Gaude had denied any knowledge of the premises being given on lease and in eight days we saw CISF take over the place,” remembers Savoi who lives next to the complex.
But as an afterthought, he adds, “Looking back and seeing the way the premises and the surrounding areas have been maintained by CISF, I think we were lucky because the government would not have been able to maintain it the way they have.”
The indoor facility houses some of the CISF staff manning the security at the Mopa airport, whilst the female staff are housed in Porvorim and couples have taken accommodation around the village.
“We have built additional toilets and washrooms for the staff, we have built a kitchen behind,” explained Mir. That the area is well maintained is evident from a tour of the facility.
The indoor stadium was built at the cost of Rs 37 crore in tandem with the objectives of national games – of creating sporting infrastructure in remote parts of the country.
“We have may missed the games but I know for a fact that the CISF have taken great pains to maintain the place and when they leave, our children will stand to benefit,” says Parshu who thinks the confusion needs to be cleared.
The staff sleeps on foldable beds, the interior and exterior of the place are clean and there appears negligible damage to the flooring where most of the beds are placed.
“We were apprehensive in the beginning but after realising who our neighbours are, we started feeling safe. They are good neighbours, never troubling us and even allowing our children to play in the open areas,” said Swati as she cleaned rice for lunch.
“We are not used to living in such circumstances but we had to adapt because it is the call of our duty. This was purely a stopgap arrangement as the airport was opened before our quarters were ready,” explained Mir.
With Chief Minister Pramod Sawant promising during the closing ceremony that all infrastructure available would be allocated to the 47 associations which participated in the games, the indoor stadium at Sawalwada will join the seven other indoor facilities – in pursuit of excellence.
Till then, the villagers around Sawalwada will live in belief that their wait was worth it.