Many playgrounds in Chattogram are now a shadow of what they used to be due to years of neglect and lack of maintenance.
It is difficult to imagine that the Outer Stadium, adjacent to MA Aziz Stadium, once served as the launchpad for national players. It was on this very ground that cricketers like Akram Khan, Minhajul Abedin Nannu, Tamim Iqbal, Nafees Iqbal, Aftab Ahmed and footballer Ashish Bhadra once used to practise before making it to the big leagues. Now, it is almost impossible to enter the stadium as it is in a very poor condition.
Pologround and Parade Ground in the city have also suffered a similar fate. Different fairs and events are held in these grounds throughout the year which have left them damaged and unusable for sports, reports bdnews24.com.
Chattogram is not producing national-level players anymore as opportunities to play and practise in the sports grounds have diminished.
Although areas surrounding the stadiums have seen development over the years, authorities have continued to turn a blind eye to sports grounds.
Chattogram Jela Krira Sangstha oversees the Outer Stadium. AZM Nasiruddin, former mayor of Chattogram City Corporation, is the general secretary of CJKS.
He promised a facelift for Outer Stadium after taking office in 2011. He has held his post for nine years in three consecutive terms.
A swimming pool and open stage were constructed in the ground and beautification works were also carried out under him. The stadium, however, became unusable for sports. The ground is usually used for holding different fairs. After the pandemic hit the country, the fairs have vanished and the stadium is not maintained anymore. Grasses have grown long and waste matter have been dumped inside it.
Some young cricketers were seen practising in the stadium on Saturday.
It is not worthwhile to come to the stadium anymore for practice due to the presence of stagnant water in the ground which increases the risk of contracting diseases, said one of them.
The boys cannot practise anymore as their cricket balls get ruined when it comes into contact with stagnant water, cricketer Md Sadek told bdnews24.com.
“Earlier, we couldn’t practise here due to different fairs. Now, we cannot practise due to stagnant water. Even if we can manage to practise batting and bowling inside a net in the corner of the ground, there’s no way to practise fielding,” said Ishtiak Azad Aqib.
Even a few years ago, second division football and cricket tournaments were used to be organised in the Outer Stadium. Different cricket academies and football teams used to practise there.
People of all ages from the surrounding neighbourhood have now stopped visiting it.
The city corporation has appointed contractors for the renovation and development work of Outer Stadium, CJKS General Secretary AZM Nasiruddin told bdnews24.com. There will be a walkway, he said.
“The work began during the construction of the open stage,” he said.
The cricket practice net outside the MA Aziz Stadium is also suffering from neglect. An ambulance and a car belonging to a private company were found to be parked nearby. People have complained they were barred from using the net.
“This is the only practice net here. Besides the players from CJKS, hundreds of players from other cricket academies practise here,” said cricket coach Saifullah Chowdhury, who is also a sports journalist.
Even after the lockdown was lifted, the practice net was not allowed to be used, said Saifullah. Rather, a private organisation has been permitted to park their car in the spot, he said.
“We arranged for the staff of Al Manahil Welfare Foundation, a voluntary organisation that buries Covid-19 victims, to stay there as sporting activities were halted. They used to stay in Parjatan Corporation Hotel before,” said Nasiruddin.
Nasiruddin, however, was astonished to find out where the organisation parked its vehicles.
“We asked them not to park any vehicle there. We’ll take necessary action if they did so,” he said.
The Sports Ministry ordered the resumption of sports on a limited scale by following the health protocols, the former mayor said.
“There’ll be a meeting of different club representatives on Sep 1. Once activities resume, players will be able to use the net.”
Pologround at Tiger Pass is owned by the Bangladesh Railway. It remains booked for fairs, including the International Trade Fair, for half of the year. It is hardly available for sporting activities.
The trade fair ended early this year because of the pandemic but construction materials, such as wood, stones and nails, are still lying around.
Players from Captain Cricket Academy still practise here but they may face accidents anytime, said coach Md Kamruzzaman.
“Players find it difficult to practise due to scarcity of playgrounds,” said coach Fazlul Karim Liton. Many bright players lose opportunities due to lack of practice, he said.
No statements from the officials in Bangladesh Railway could be recorded in this regard.
The sports field inside Chattogram College is popularly known as Parade Ground. Once thronged by people of all ages, the playground now suffers from a lack of maintenance.
Police shifted the kitchen market in Chawkbazar to Parade Ground at the onset of the pandemic. Later, the traders moved out but the ground was already damaged.
Like Outer Stadium and Pologround, cricket, football and other sporting tournaments were used to be organised in the Parade Ground, said cricket coach Saifullah. Many of the national team cricketers played there in the past. Now the ground is unusable for sports.
The kitchen market traders have left behind some shop materials which will be removed soon, said Mujibul Haque Chowdhury, principal of Chattogram College. The ground is in good condition, he claimed.
“Many people come to play here. They play cricket, football or other sports. There are some holes on the ground because of goalposts and cricket stumps. All of the holes will be repaired. But the playground is pretty big and there is still enough space to play,” he said.