There has been a significant rise in pay and play footballing facilities across Delhi, Patriot finds out why
Sombuddha Chaudhuri works as a software engineer in a reputed company in Gurugram. He has stayed away from his home in Kolkata for more than seven years. Naturally, he says he misses home a lot. “The thing I missed the most, however, is enjoying a game of football with friends on a weekend”, he says.
For quite a few years here in the capital, he says, he couldn’t find any spot to play, and also didn’t have the time. “It was around three years back that my colleague told me about this space which we can rent at night and play a game of football”.
For three years now he has been playing at Adidas Base Plaza in Chhattarpur on weekend nights, enjoying a game of football with friends and colleagues. “Finally after a boring week of work and pressure, this game for two hours gives me immense satisfaction. It acts as a stress buster for me,” adds Sombuddha.
It is not just him, but a number of people across the country have the same affinity towards this pay and play structure. Pay and play refer to the practice of renting a ground for a few hours to play a game of football. According to the app PlayO (an app used to rent grounds for pay and play), there are more than one million users across the country, more than 30% of whom are in Delhi.
Adidas Base Plaza is perhaps the most prominent name in the city in this sector. Spread across a sprawling 2.5-acre plot, the base features two pitches: a natural pitch of 24,000 sq ft which can be split up into two small pitches for 5/6-a-side football and an artificial pitch of 9,000 sq ft.
“People of all age groups right from 10-year-olds to 60-year-olds come and avail our facilities”, says Hemant Sharma, co-founder and director of the Afdidas Base Plaza.
With a charge of Rs 2,400 per hour, the facility now hosts only five a side or eight side games. But despite the hefty price tag, Sharma says that he has seen a huge increase in the number of customers in the past few years.
We have an average of 100 players a day playing on weekdays, which goes up to 250 people on the weekends. When we started, we had one or a maximum of two games a day, which has now gone up to a minimum of six games.
The scenario is similar at Tricky Taka, one of the first pay and play facilities to come into existence in the capital. Started in 2015, the facility has seen an exponential growth in the last five years.
“The number of people coming to our facility has increased by more than ten times in the past five years”, says Yuvraj Birdi, founder of Tricky Taka. From an average of two to three games a day, the facility now has as many as eight games a day on an average.
Costing Rs 1,800 an hour, Tricky Taka comprises a large football pitch covered in Fifa-approved astroturf that can host five a side game.
In fact, apart from Tricky Taka and Base Plaza, there are as many as 15 pay and playgrounds inside Delhi that have come up in the last five years, all of them jampacked.
So, why has Delhi gravitated towards this pay and play footballing culture?
“We have a lot of children who come to our facilities to play”, says Birdi. This may be mostly because the number of children’s parks in Delhi are slowly diminishing. While the North Delhi Municipal Corporation has only 16 such parks, the South Delhi Municipal corporation has 190 and East Delhi Municipal Corporation has 116.
With this space crunch, parents who can afford to send their kids to play are doing so, says sports psychologist Dr Pramit Gupta, who is based in Delhi.
“I send my child every week to Adidas Base Plaza to play with his friends because we have one park in our locality, and that too has no space to play for them”, says Shailesh Sharma, a resident of Vasant Vihar.
Both Birdi and Sharma agree that the major chunk of their clients are youngsters working in the private sector. “The private sector has a lot of pressure, and the brain needs some form of relaxation. This is why, perhaps, at the end of a long tiring week, they go to play on the weekends”, adds Dr Gupta.
Sahil Rana, 28, who works in a telecom company as a marketing executive, is a regular at the Adidas Base Plaza. “There is so much pressure on us, that we don’t find the time to relax and play. A session of football on the weekends not only helps in refreshing my mind but also helps me in staying fit for the boring desk job on the weekdays”, he says.
“Playing football with friends on the weekend, not only helps in keeping one fit, but also instils a sense of community bonding, which is absolutely necessary in this day and age”, says Birdi.
Though the pandemic halted their business somewhat, both Sharma and Birdi say that their facilities are slowly seeing an increase in the number of visitors by the day.
“There has been significant growth in the last few years, and the way this culture is developing, I can see this going places”, concludes Birdi.
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