Spruced-up sta­dium, free en­try fail to draw crowds

New Straits Times - - Sport -

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.