— Dawn photos
— Dawn photos

FAISALABAD: The hockey stadium in Faisalabad is in a pathetic condition as its astroturf has completed its life span about eight years ago.

The Faisalabad Development Authority (FDA) has sold most of its shops leaving no source of earning for the administrator to even maintain the stadium expenses.

A number of its iron grills being used to cover a drain to maintain the water of astroturf and stairs of the ground are broken. Shed of players’ enclosure roof is placed along the wall of stairs while plaster of the ground at different points is also in a rundown condition.

Roads leading to the stadium and its drainage system are also in bad condition as shops have been sold to the people engaged in vehicles service station business.

The stadium was constructed in 2002 and then Punjab governor Khalid Maqbool had inaugurated it on April 16, 2003. An imported astroturf with a life of five-year had been laid in 2003.

Potholes and visible cuts can be seen at the astroturf. Nothing is in sight for the replacement of the astroturf while players say the government had approved it along with installation of floodlights and construction of a hostel for players.

Injuries are common at the stadium during practice because of the astroturf condition.

Being the third largest hockey stadium in the country, it has a capacity of around 25,000 people.

The stadium had hosted various tournaments of local and national level, including the national hockey championship.

All affairs of the stadium remained with the FDA till three years back when it was handed over to the Faisalabad Commissioner.

Commissioner Naseem Nawaz told Dawn that efforts were under way to upkeep this national asset.

He said funds would be arranged for the replacement of the astroturf so as to promote the national game among the youth.

He said the divisional management was trying its level best to provide maximum facilities to students.

Former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf had in December 2012 announced a new astroturf for the hockey stadium in Faisalabad, but it proved only a hollow slogan.

The district administration has allowed the construction of a building just a few feet away from the stadium which can be a security risk because of its height.

Sources say around 60 players are getting training free-of-cost at an academy being run by the Faisalabad Hockey Association (FHC).

They said the FHC had also set up an academy at the stadium which had been closed a few years back.

Olympian Khalid Bashir said that Faisalabad always remained in limelight because of producing national hockey players.

He said players of national level could not be produced under such an unfriendly environment where a major component like astroturf was missing.

At least 52 shops of the stadium had been sold by the FDA and only two shops and a few offices on the first floor are under the control of current administration. Two shops are not enough to meet Rs0.2 million monthly expenses of the stadium.

Ahteshamul Haq, a sports lover whose office is situated near the stadium, said the game was being played on the damaged astroturf which was a slap on the face of the rulers. “What kind of importance they are giving to our national game,” he questioned.

A couple of years ago the FDA had rented the outer place of the stadium to restaurants, but they have been removed.

Ali, an under-training player at the academy, said the way the FDA was handling affairs of the stadium had in fact worsened its condition.

Yawar Hussain, the FDA director-general, did not reply the queries sent to him about the state of stadium through SMS.

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2016