HOW badly hockey in Pakistan has been destroyed can be judged by the fate of a playground that has lost its existence unceremoniously, becoming a victim of urbanisation, apathy and the greed of a few. A death that has gone unsung.

For the young today, it is downright impossible to even imagine what hockey and its following meant back in the day. The game lost its shine in the country when the national team stopped shining. It became a vicious cycle, with one leading to the other on the loop. Gone are the bustling stadiums packed with capacity crowds, as can be seen in the accompanying image of an international match at the Hockey Club of Pakistan stadium in Karachi. Today, urbanisation has eaten away whatever grounds were there in Karachi.

More than the game, however, these lines are meant to be in remembrance of a ground that was one of the many that used to work as nurseries for the national team. It all started with the construction of the Green Line bus project. Situated in Nazimabad No 1, Mujahid Ground was known as a venue for national hockey events with excellent facilities and even had a stadium, which is now in a dilapidated condition.

It used to be a lush green facility. The ground had hosted matches in the early 1980s between star-studded teams of PIA and Pakistan Customs that together comprised almost the entire national team. And, my God, what a team it used to be!

The ground is surrounded by Chawla Bazaar, a market known for second-hand clothes. Though illegally established, the bazaar has been there for almost four decades, and has harmed no one in any sense of the term.

There is an old government school across the road from where a large number of spectators, mainly schoolchildren, would come to watch the hockey matches that were a routine at Mujahid Ground. Those were excellent times and it was a treat to watch children supporting their favourite teams rather vociferously. The vicinity had excellent talent. Not only top hockey players, but some Test cricketers, who lived nearby, would also visit the ground to boost the morale of the hockey players.

Things have now changed drastically, especially after the construction of infrastructure for the Green Line bus. There is a pile of garbage next to the school. The walls of the ground have been destroyed by the builders involved in the Green Line project, while Chawla Bazaar vendors have started using the ground as their warehouse.

I wish the next generation could enjoy the lovely afternoons we used to have in a densely populated area like Nazimabad. I know it would be fairly difficult to maintain the ground due to the large population that lives in illegal dwellings and slum areas adjacent to it, but this can be ensured by launching an operation to clear the area, and cleaning the ground of debris or anything which is now preventing children and area residents from visiting the ground.

If the authorities concerned are not ready to wake up from their deep slumber, big brands should take up the project under their lofty corporate social responsibility (CSR) banner. They may adopt the ground and get it cleaned to make it useable, in the process reviving hockey activity at the venue. There is no harm day-dreaming, I guess.

Baqar Rizvi
Karachi

Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2022

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