FAISALABAD: The apathy and negligence of authorities concerned has put an already declining sport in further danger of dying out. A paucity of funds has halted construction of a hockey practice ground located adjacent to the Faisalabad Hockey Stadium. The stadium itself is also in desperate need of repair.
The ground has been designated for small practice matches since 2003 when the international hockey stadium was constructed in Faisalabad. The stadium was constructed at a time when hockey fever was still very much alive in the country.
However, after some time, there was a decline in the number of tournaments being organised. As a result, the practice ground and the hockey stadium have become victims of neglect.
Two years ago, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government chalked out a plan to promote hockey in different regions across the province. This included restoring the practice arena to a five-a-side ground.
The Punjab Sports Board also approved the feasibility of the scheme and allocated Rs70 million for the construction. The project was supposed to be completed in seven months and construction work began in February 2018. However, all of the funds were not handed over for the site.
Consequently, the constructor only laid down the concrete for the practice ground. The delay in release of funds has slowed down the construction process exponentially and is causing damage to the construction work which has already been completed.
Sources have claimed that the authorities concerned are not taking a keen interest in the project after the change in government. This means that millions of rupees have been wasted laying down concrete for a project which is nowhere near completion.
On the other hand, the international hockey stadium is also in dire need of maintenance. The deteriorating structure has caused hockey enthusiasts to seek another place to organise matches. Sources added that the stadium falls under the jurisdiction of the Faisalabad commissioner. However, efforts to restore and repair the structure have not been made.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Olympian Rana Mujahid stated that when the idea for building a five-a-side practice ground was floated, it was initially rejected. “Instead, we had suggested that the sports board build a standard size ground for 11 players from each side,” he said.
He maintained that a group of players had met with the Faisalabad commissioner at the time and he ordered the halting of work. However, construction work later resumed and the players forwarded their complaints to the Punjab Sports Board director general. “The director general visited the ground a few days ago and promised to meet the demands put forth,” Mujahid said.
Reportedly, after the DG’s visit, Faisalabad Commissioner Mahmood Javed Bhatti also visited the ground and promised to implement the suggestions put forth by the former hockey legend. He admonished officials and stated that there was no need to construct a new ground when the old one was lying in ruin. He also directed staff from the local sports office to address all the problems.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2019.