Infrastructures Across The Country

Chittagong tells a different story

Shahidul Islam

It has been 34 years since Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation, which is hard-earned through a nine-month bloody war, on the world map. The country has also made some tremendous progress in many areas during the period. And sports, especially cricket, can be singled out as one of the areas that has benefitted the most from various development programmes whatsoever.

But yet, if you take a look at sports' infrastructural development in Chittagong, the city that has produced so many sporting talents who went on to make good players, national stars and organisers over the years, the first thing that will come to your mind is all these have been quite frustrating.

The MA Aziz Stadium, Chittagong Divisional Stadium, Tennis Complex, Mohila Complex, Chittagong Club Tennis Complex, Bandar Stadium and Dampara Police Line Ground -- these few remain the only sporting venues of the city even after more than three decades. Practically only four of them -- the MA Aziz, Divisional, Dampara and Chittagong Club -- remain more or less busy with sort of sporting activities these days.

When asked, some devoted sports organisers here expressed mixed reactions to the dismal scenario prevailing in the sports arena in this port city. A bird's eye view of the infrastructures in the second biggest city of the country really evokes a sorry picture.

MA Aziz Stadium (MAAS)
It can be easily said that this stadium stands out as the focal point of sports activities of the port city. Although the stadium became the 82nd Test venue in the world, it is also known and regarded as a multi-purpose playground. Funny it may sound, yet the fact is that the MAAS not only hosts cricket and even football matches, but it also takes care of athletics, hockey or any other sport. And sometimes Chattagram Jela Krira Sangstha (CJKS), the owning and controlling authority of the arena, doesn't hesitate to give political parties a chance to hold rallies or other programmes here. Musical concert organisers also find a space in the stadium. And in a bizarre case, a 'grand' marriage ceremony of a daughter of a top-ranking political figure-cum-businessman was held at this playground some years back.

The picturesque MA Aziz Stadium, the 82nd Test venue in the cricket world situated at the heart of Chittagong, still remains the focal point of sports in the port city as a multi-purpose venue

Such freestyle and uncalled for exploitation of the MAAS under the very auspices of CJKS gives an impression of the present state of sports in the city, its infrastructure and the sincerity and devotion of the people (organisers) behind the curtain.

Nevertheless, sports-lovers have got a Test venue, only the country's second after Banga-bandhu National Stadium (BNS), in Chittagong -- the MAAS. Previously known as Neaz Stadium, the MAAS has probably the most sporting pitches on offer in the country. A relatively small but homely ground with a scenic setting, the stadium overlooks the historic Circuit House, a grand symbol of the British rule, from one end while the Maritime Museum from the other. Located absolutely at the heart of the second largest city, but the atmosphere around it is amazingly tranquil and gorgeous. It can accommodate a crowd of 25,000 approximately. Close to it is a large gymnasium complex where martial art practices are a common sight instead of regular indoor games like badminton, table tennis etc.

Sources in the CJKS recently said that the gallery extension work of the stadium might start soon.

Divisional Stadium
A brand new venue in the Pahartali suburb of the city, the stadium began its journey by hosting the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup in 2004 and it will be used for cricket only in future. The stadium is located around six kilometres away from the main city.

The Tk 35-crore stadium was built on a 26-acre land with an aim to lessen the pressure on the city's prime venue -- the MA Aziz Stadium. With a great potential to boost sports activities, the stadium is now instead heading towards decay and gradually losing its lustre and purpose owing to the authorities' carelessness and indifference.

After successfully hosting six matches of the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup, the Divisional Stadium returned to its sorry state and remains virtually uncared for till today with the exception of staging a few National Cricket League matches.

Bangladesh cricket team captain Habibul Bashar, while talking to few journalists in November of 2005, expressed his displeasure about the state of the stadium. He was also found unhappy with the decrepit road conditions linking the stadium with the city.

The stadium was supposed to be a full-fledged sports complex comprising the main bowl, and the tennis and mohila complexes within its boundary. But the arena for most part of the year is found either as an abandoned property or a safe haven for unwanted people or a grazing land for cattle.

The National Sports Council (NSC) has appointed only four persons -- three guards and one caretaker -- to look after the divisional stadium and the adjacent tennis and mohila complexes. But the local organisers believe at least twelve people are needed to take care of this huge establishment.

The stadium is now under final scrutiny of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and satellite sports channel ESPN before it gets green signal to become the third Test venue of the country. The ICC and ESPN's technical teams visited the facilities several times and recommended a few modifications before giving their final nod. Among other aspects, environmental pollution on the stadium periphery is another problem. Heaps of garbage are seen quite often on the stadium premises itself.

The lone caretaker, Saidul Islam, expressed his helplessness. "Is it possible for a single person to take care of this mammoth installation," he retorted throwing counter question.

The stadium lacks any telephone facility and caretaker Saidul considers it as another major problem. "If you need any emergency help from outside, you are left with no option," he complained.

Tennis Complex
With a view to creating talented players and flourish the game, a modern tennis complex was constructed, adjacent to and within the boundary of the Divisional Stadium, at a cost of Tk 1.5 crore five years ago.

The then state minister for sports Obaidul Quader formally inaugurated it on November 17, 2000. And ever since, the tennis complex has never been in use and not a single ball rolled on any of the three courts of the complex till date. And naturally, many corners and portions of the complex have gathered moss and developed some cracks, thanks again to the carelessness of the authorities.

The tennis complex in Chittagong has all the modern facilities. But the 1.5-crore taka complex has not been used for once since its completion in the year 2000, for reasons completely unknown

Mohila Complex
The lone Mohila Complex built near the Divisional Stadium five years ago also has a similar fate like the tennis complex. It is dangerously unprotected and unwanted visitors find easy space inside it.

Dampara Police Lines Ground
This tiny ground is an example for years in comparison to other sports venues of the city and it is found full of life with cricket or football almost every month. Chittagong Mahanagari Krira Sangstha (CMKS), the owning authority of the arena may deserve compliments but the problem of the venue is that it is not a recognised sports site and more importantly it lacks basic infrastructure to host any major event.

Among others, Bandar Stadium owned by Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) is worth mentioning. This stadium in the past used to host different kinds of sports quite regularly. But gone are the days and hosting of any sporting activity these days is now a rarity.

What they say
CJKS official Ali Abbas, a devout sports organiser, blamed the insincerity and inertia of most of the present organisers for the pitiable scenario in the sport arena of Chittagong.

"They care much for their ambition instead of developing sports or infrastructure here and they use the CJKS portfolios as a tool to materialise their ambitions," he alleged.

Abbas opined that the fixture-clash between international cricket matches and local games (football, cricket and hockey) centring the MAAS is a major factor that, he believes, causes a hopeless atmosphere in the sports scenario of the port city.

Dastagir Chowdhury, CJKS vice-president, however, differs with the views of Abbas and claims that they don't lack sincerity regarding development and patronage of sports.
He said the government is going to set up the branch of Bangladesh Krira Shikkha Prathisthan (BKSP) in Chittagong and it will add a new dimension.

Every sports-lover here is eagerly waiting to see what that dimension will be.

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