ITANAGAR: In the face of growing criticism over the pitch conditions in the ongoing Senior Women’s National Championship reported by sections of the media, the Arunachal Pradesh Football Association (APFA) today went into damage control mode.

The 25th edition of the championship began on September 10 and is being played at two venues in the town of Pasighat in East Siang district. This is arguably the biggest national-level football event Arunachal Pradesh is hosting and is the result of recent efforts to change the football landscape in the state.

While football is played extensively across Arunachal, the fledging infrastructure here has meant that teams and players from the state, save for Indrajit Namchoom (who played in the sixties) and Gumpe Rime have had little success in the bigger leagues, or made their presence felt on the national scene.

The women’s competition was expected to bring about a change in attitudes towards the administration of the game in the state but images from the first day have not helped matters.

Pictures and videos of waterlogged football pitches at the Pasighat and CHF stadiums began circulating on social media following heavy rains. News outlets were quick to report on the issue, as one player – Karnataka’s Tanvie Hans – uploaded photos of a waterlogged pitch that had marred play during her team’s first loss, against Bihar.

“We lost against Bihar yesterday, and I walked off in tears, not because of the loss, but because it was hardly a game of #football. The ground was flooded, and the ball was hardly moving. Heart broken by the conditions we are being asked to play in. I would be, even if we won,” Hans tweeted from her account.

Hans, who’s played for the English sides Fulham and the Tottenham Hotspurs, had also raised concerns about players possibly picking up injuries in such pitch conditions.

Reacting to the criticism, APFA secretary Kipa Ajay told the media Friday that the organisers were doing their best to overcome the challenges brought about by the “unexpected rainfall and weather conditions”.

Ajay said that the state football body “worked extremely hard” the last two months to develop the venues, adding that apart from the two venues, other ground arrangements had also been made to conduct the matches if needed.

The APFA secretary further said that the ground feasibility for every match is assessed by the match commissioner and the referees appointed by the All India Football Federation.

“Football is a tough game of body contact and injuries cannot be ruled out,” Ajay is reported to have told the media.