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On rooftops, in Parking lots: How India plays football

The country known for producing fine cricketers is seeing a proliferation of artificial football turfs in innovative spacesIf we regard football ‘a poor man’s game’, futsal is probably its more affluent cousin. Futsal turfs mushrooming all over can attest to the game’s popularity with the working professionals of the country. It is mostly affiliated tounpredictable and grueling work schedules of the city-dwellers.The turfs came to the country in early 2000s, that time it was difficult to imagine every city will have more than 50 turfs! The first football turf in Mumbai- KICK for all was launched 2013, and just two years later, there are more than 55 turfs in the city! There are new turf grounds opening up all the time across the country.So why are so many turfs sprouting everywhere in last two years? And who are using them? The answer to this lies in their operation. Turfs see several Ronaldos and Messis attempting to replicate the sublime step-overs and dazzling dribbles. The smooth, soft surface allows them to perform those tricks. Here, even if they fall, there are no injuries, no twisting of legs and ball rolls smoothly; turfs are small in size but ideal place to play in urban jungles.The other reason for increase in the popularity of football turfs is that an entire industry is growing around the turfs; many companies like HCL, HDFC, Airtel, Deutsche bank, and even smaller start-ups like housing.com rent these turfs out annually or on a quarterly basis. Vodafone uses this turf time to conduct quarterly HR events and footsal tournaments as a team-building exercise. Sale of football jerseys and shoes has spawned around the turfs.Urban engagement:The urban participation in football has increased many times, believes AkashGambhir, founder of KICK for all, first astro turf in Mumbai. People now also view football as an alternative to gyming. “We had never imagined so many people from remote suburbs coming to play here,” he says. “We are convinced that the turf revolution will eventually lead to improvement in quality of footballers across the country,” he adds.The turfs are open 24X7, provide changing rooms that are well-furnished and sometimes, air-conditioned. Depending on how many players book the turfs, costs can range from Rs 300 to Rs 500 per head for standalone five- or seven-a-side matches, hence in budget of urban dwellers. They thus appeal to the professionals looking to unwind after a long day.We can easily say that turfs are here to stay and become a permanent fixture in city’s landscape.Image courtesy: Kick for all India, Mumbai.

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