The Arena: Mumbai's first indoor football club
In Mumbai even a 1,000 sq ft is palatial. So when we found out about a 5,000 square feet indoor football ground, we were curious. Located at Saki Naka, close to both offices and residential areas of BKC and Andheri, The Arena is easy to miss. There are no signboards, not even advertising banners that guide you to the place. “We are in the process of putting up banners on the road,” says Abhishek Bangur, head of operations at The Arena.
School kids enjoy a game of football at The Arena
The Arena is the brainchild of entrepreneur Mohit Maheshwari and Sanveer Gill who are both based in Singapore. The two, who are also good friends, came up with this idea late last year and finally launched the club in January this year. Maheswari explains, “We love football and realised that nothing much was done about it in India. We wanted to create a space that could bring together football enthusiasts so that football lovers in India can play the game just like we do in Singapore.”
The ground can accommodate 10 players in total
To get some real live action, I set foot on the 5,000 sq ft indoor field. The grass is soft and smooth, too good to be real in fact. And it is in fact Astroturf, and FIFA approved. We quickly get together a few friends (and coax a few employees of Arena to join us) and play an impromptu game. What fun!
The field is ideal for five-a-side tournaments, since it can accommodate 10 players at a time. But if there’s a five-a-side tournament that a corporate house wants to hold, fret not! “We have an equally big indoor field on the upper level that can accommodate another five-a-side match,” smiles Bangur. The club also has shower facilities and toilets for players and guests.
The Arena charges Rs 3,000 per hour during peak hours and Rs 2,500 for off-peak hours which is the same compared to the open air football grounds in Inorbit Mall in Malad and R city Mall in Ghatkopar. However, it wasn’t smooth sailing for Gill and Maheshwari when they were looking to start the venture. As Gill explains, “We had a tough time finding an appropriate place for the indoor field. We looked at close to 20 sites before zeroing it down to Saki Naka due to its close proximity to BKC as well as several schools and offices in the Andheri area.”
What makes this service different is that you don’t need to come in at a fixed time. The club is open from 6 am to midnight, which makes it convenient for both children and working professionals to organise a match or a tournament here. It’s been almost two hours and despite my best efforts, I haven’t been able to do a Beckham, let alone a Messi and score a goal. Ah well, there’s always next time.