Abdul Hafeez, presently a coach in the Punjab Football Board, boasts an extensive background in sports. Having been a former national football team member, he has proudly represented Pakistan in various international sports events held across multiple countries.
He says that the Punjab Football Board is set to organise the inter-district football tournament of the province in two months, scheduled for January 2024, with Gujranwala selected as the hosting city for this upcoming event.
When Abdul Hafeez reached the proposed site for the tournament at the Mini Stadium in Gujranwala, he was taken aback. There was sewage, trash heaps, and foul smells all around. The place didn’t feel like a stadium but more like a dump.
He promptly informed the Deputy Commissioner about the situation, leading to the arrival of the WASA and Solid Waste Management teams. They spent the entire week removing the wastewater and clearing away the garbage from the stadium.
Abdul Hafeez says that national-level sports events have previously taken place at this Mini Stadium. Although a temporary solution has addressed the cleaning issue, he stresses that unless there is permanent management of sewage and rainwater for the population adjacent to the stadium, sports activities will not be able to be restored here.
The Punjab Football Board suggested the People’s Colony football ground as an alternative venue. Although smaller than the Mini Stadium, this location doesn’t face sewage-related issues.
Gujranwala, including Wazirabad, has a population of 5.975 million, where only 2.415 million reside within the Metropolitan Corporation limits. Gujranwala is known as the ‘city of wrestlers,’ and the district is often celebrated as a hub for sports.
There are seven major playing grounds in this district, including the Jinnah International Stadium in Gujranwala, along with the Mini Stadium, Gujranwala Education Board Complex, DC Colony Ground, and People’s Colony Ground situated within the city.
However, the players from 52 registered cricket clubs in Gujranwala lack an official place to practice where they can train regularly without paying heavy fees. The Education Board Complex and DC Colony Ground have established substantial fees for tournament use.
Gujranwala’s Jinnah Stadium has a longstanding history of hosting international cricket matches. Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar started his international ODI career in 1989 with a match in this stadium. However, no international matches have been played in this stadium since 2000.
As per the Pakistan Cricket Board’s policy, hosting international cricket matches in the Jinnah Stadium depends on the construction of a five-star hotel in Gujranwala. As a result, the stadium, situated in the city’s heart, has remained dormant for the past 23 years.
Jinnah Stadium is now out of reach of common players. Local teams wishing to play a match at the stadium must pay a fee of twenty thousand rupees. The venue is occasionally used for events such as concerts and other entertainment programs.
The stadium once hosted indigenous wrestling matches, but the sports department has allegedly lost interest in organising Dangal events. The stadium is closed, yet the costs for maintenance, such as paint, regular repairs, utility bills for electricity and gas, and employee salaries, continue.
Wrestler Riyaz has won the title of ‘Star of Pakistan’. He says that Gujranwala is the ‘Sports City’ of the country. “Wrestlers and weightlifters here are winning medals in international competitions despite the lack of resources.” Riyaz advocates for designating the Jinnah Stadium for wrestling and weightlifting, which, he believes, could significantly contribute to these athletes winning numerous medals.
Abdul Wakeel Khan Stadium is situated in Kamoke, just outside Gujranwala. The Municipal Corporation charges between ten to fifteen thousand rupees per day for sports activities at Kamoke Stadium. Another facility in the vicinity is the Ghakhar Sports Complex.
Former Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa established the singular sports complex constructed in the district over two decades in his hometown in March 2020. This facility is situated in Ghakhar, with a population of 60,000, and is named after his father, Colonel Iqbal Bajwa. The construction cost of this complex amounted to 36.5 crore rupees.
The Colonel Bajwa Sports Complex has separate cricket, hockey, and football grounds. The complex houses basketball, badminton, and lawn tennis courts, among others, making it one of the most modern sports complexes. An astroturf has also been laid within the premises.
For the last two and a half years, the provincial government has overseen the management of this complex located 16 km from Gujranwala. Tournament organisers are required to pay an official fee, and the management has established various categories for these events.
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Sports grounds are accessible in several government colleges and schools within Gujranwala city. Unfortunately, these facilities often remain unused for sports activities due to security concerns. Additionally, the mini-stadium is currently in disrepair, leaving only the People’s Colony Ground available for citizens, where no fees are required.
Although spacious, the People’s Colony ground has not undergone any upgrades and is surrounded by a considerable amount of garbage. Resident Mujahid Butt says that the accumulation of waste is a result of both public littering and the placement of garbage containers by department officials outside the ground, causing a foul odour in the vicinity.
Deputy Commissioner Fayyaz Ahmad Mohal tells Lok Sujag that measures have been taken to clear the rainwater from the Mini Stadium. “Instructions have been issued to the sports department to improve its condition, while steps are being taken to clean and improve other grounds and gardens of the city.”
He mentions that the provincial government has sanctioned the development of a cutting-edge sports complex at Nagar Chowk. Work on this project is set to begin soon.
When contacted, Divisional Sports Officer Faisal Ameer said he took charge of his post two days ago and is currently reviewing the situation of various grounds, including the Mini Stadium.
Published on 1 Nov 2023