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Suryakant Jena

Bhubaneswar: Debutants in the sixth season of the Indian Super League - Odisha FC - will play their first three home games at Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, Pune instead of their home ground based at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.

The franchise will play their initial home matches against ATK, Bengaluru FC and Hyderabad FC on 24 November, 4 December and 11 December respectively at the new venue. All other six games will be go ahead as per schedule, informed the club authorities. 

According to official sources, Kalinga Stadium, which is owned by the Odisha Sports and Youth Services Department, is not fully prepared for use by the State-based football franchise as the upgradation work in the stadium has been delayed due to persistent showers in Bhubaneswar and severe delay in withdrawal of monsoon. 

It may be noted that Kalinga stadium is scheduled to host the 2020 FIFA under 17 women's World Cup. But amid inclement weather, as the preparations for the mega event has been delayed, the state government is now trying to ensure that the turf is in proper condition as per the FIFA guidelines and the stadium gets ready before December 16.

Speaking on the development, Odisha FC owner Rohan Sharma said, "We tried hard to ensure that we play the home games in Bhubaneswar. However, owing to persistent showers here the upgradation work got delayed and unfortunately, things are beyond our control so we have to consider an alternative venue for the first three home games. We look forward to having Kalinga Stadium full when we have our eventual first home game."

Similarly, R Vineel Krishna, Director - cum - Additional Secretary of Sports and Youth Services Department, said, "We are working hard along with the vendors on getting Kalinga Stadium football pitch ready for FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup India 2020 as per the guidelines of FIFA.”

Adding further on the stadium and the ground condition, Vineel Krishna said, “There was tremendous delay in the withdrawal of monsoons this year, making it the most delayed withdrawal of the monsoon in its recorded history. Due to this, there were extreme weather conditions that led to a slight delay from the original schedule in making the ground available for the initial Odisha FC home games. We are expecting that the ground will be available for the home games of Odisha FC in mid December 2019."

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