Spruced-up stadium, free entry fail to draw crowds
THE Maulana Bhashani Hockey Stadium in Dhaka, Bangladesh, is surrounded by petty traders who sell all kinds of food, household items and everything else imaginable.
Even currency is exchanged in the open, by sidewalk changers who carry sacks of taka (Bangladesh currency) and US dollars.
Businesses are conducted by the sidewalks, on trishaws and on makeshift tables.
The selling frenzy is compounded by choked streets, honking buses, cars, trishaws and pedestrians filling up the gaps left on the streets.
Once inside the stadium, built in 1987, the situation is similar.
Welcome to the press area where chai-walas, samosas (which is like curry puff ) and 250 journalists cramped together to cover the Asia Cup.
Yes, 250 journalists from print and TV stations, with only three from foreign countries.
The press box is as chaotic as the streets surrounding Maulana Bhashani, for loud conversations, and even louder cheers when a goal is scored and food is served like in the street bazaars outside.
However, it is a pity that even though the Bangladesh Hockey Federation (BHF) did everything they could to spruce up the old stadium and make it look like a bride ready for marriage for the Asia Cup, the crowd is still missing from the stands.
BHF spent US$1.5 million (RM6.3 million) to install floodlights and a gigantic scoreboard along with renovating other aspects of the stadium but fans are staying away even though entrance is free.
The stadium can accommodate 10,000 people but even when Bangladesh played Pakistan (on Wednesday), there was hardly 1,500 people, including journalists, authorities and officials, watching the match.
Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) did a great job by making sure the stadium was 50 per cent better than when Dhaka hosted the World League Round Two in March.
AHF chief executive officer Datuk Tayyab Ikram of Macau took a personal interest in making sure the venue was ready this time.
In March, even though the stadium was in a deplorable condition, with toilets best shied from, Malaysia walked away with the title.
Hopefully, the new-look venue will bring Malaysia luck as they hope to win the Asia Cup for the first time.
Hopefully, the new look venue will bring Malaysia luck as they hope to win the Asia Cup for the first time.