The Grassy Ground cricket stadium in Mingora has become the fulcrum of sports during Ramazan with a one-kilometer radius around it serving as the venue for four night tournaments.
The people of Swat have pooled in their resources to organise two cricket tournaments along with one each of badminton and volleyball. The matches started with the onset of Ramazan and will conclude with the end of the month, entertaining thousands of spectators till Sehr every night.
“We really enjoyed the first ever night tournament of badminton in the area. Young players have immense talent here,” a spectator and badminton enthusiast, Afzal Khan, told The Express Tribune.
The popularity of the volleyball fixtures can also be gauged from the cheers of the audience every time their side scores. However, it is Mingora’s lone cricket stadium, Grassy Ground, which is truly abuzz; and the atmosphere is electric.
Organisers said 64 teams from Swat, Malakand and Buner are participating in the cricket tournament.
“This is real entertainment. We come to the ground, enjoy the matches and spend time with friends. I am happy the youth has kept themselves busy in healthy activities,” school teacher Zafar Iqbal said while watching the game with his cronies.
The memory of yesteryears, however, weighs on the people watching the games.
“The Wali of Swat was very keen on providing sports grounds in the state. He established grounds everywhere and Grassy Ground was the official stadium with every facility available for players and spectators. It regularly hosted national sports competitions,” recalled Muhamad Ilyas, an elder of Mingora. He claimed the only stadium of Mingora has now lost its charm, with the government paying no attention to its upkeep.
Swat District Cricket Association Vice President Bashir Ahmad blamed lack of security for the deteriorating infrastructure of the ground. “People have torn the sight screen and broken the fences and chairs,” he said, demanding a watchman or police guard be deployed round the clock by the district administration.
Players and cricket association members said youth in Swat love sports and many participate in games at the domestic level. “Despite meager resources and no facilities, three players from Swat played in the last national T-20 championship,” said Swat Cricket Association Secretary Hussain Ali. He added that the Pakistan Cricket Board, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government and district administration should provide modern facilities and equipment. He also demanded the government fulfil its earlier promise of establishing grounds at the union council level.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2014.