Amid concerns over the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chinese Taipei on Thursday became the first team to arrive here for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, even as the Indian contingent’s flight from Kochi was delayed.
The delay in their flight from Kochi, the Indian team’s base since returning from the tournament tour and exhibition in Brazil, led to the postponement of the host nation’s scheduled press briefing on Thursday evening. The Indian team was drawn against Iran (January 20), Chinese Taipei (January 23) and China (January 26) in Group A of the competition which consists of 12 teams.
India is hosting the continent’s highest competition for the first time since 1980 and at stake is a possible place in the 2023 FIFA World Cup. One of the venues hosting the matches is the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Balewadi , on the outskirts of the city of Pune. It has hosted a plethora of international events in the past, including the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2008.
Built in the 1990s, the Balewadi Sports Complex, as it is popularly known in sports circles, had also hosted the National Games. Be it tennis, rugby, football, boxing, athletics or basketball, the picturesque sports complex has witnessed many memorable sporting events.
Since the 2008 CWG Youth Games, when the stadium facilities were renovated, until February 2020, the complex has hosted 36 international tournaments. The biggest among them is the Maharashtra Open ATP 250 WTA tennis tournament, in which 50 international players participated.
In 2019 the ATP tennis tournament was held here and this year again the tennis courts are gearing up to host the showpiece event. In 2017, the stadium hosted Davis Cup matches.
As for football, the stadium is expected to host Asia’s premier event and Group C matches will be played there. Previously it hosted the Federation Cup International Football Tournament in 2010 and in 2011 they hosted the Pre-Olympic Football Qualifier.
The pitch at the site has been significantly improved to support modern football. New floodlights with LED panels have also been installed in the stadium, which would save energy to a large extent, a senior state government official said.
New training facilities were rebuilt for the tournament. Two additional training grounds have also been constructed to accommodate the teams and apart from this, the team changing rooms, hospitality areas and the media stand have also been upgraded.
The old lights have been moved to one of the training grounds while LED lights are installed at the other training ground. Some of the other important tournaments the resort has hosted include Asian Junior Basketball Tournament in 2009, World Junior Badminton Championship in 2008, Asian Kickboxing Championship.
The complex also hosted the Khelo India Games.