With the installation of floodlights and the overall renovation works for the Hero 10th Asia Cup, the Maulana Bhasani Hockey Stadium has taken on a new look, but there was hardly any life in the galleries due to a low turnout during Bangladesh's first match, against Pakistan yesterday.
The opening match between India and Japan was held in front of all-but-empty stands before approximately 2000 spectators, wearing red and green and with national flags in hand, turned up to support the home side under the floodlights.
Spectators were one of the major components the 1985 Dhaka Asia Cup's success, but this time the lack of promotional activities regarding the tournament has left organisers red-faced.
The galleries are free-entry for spectators but it has hardly been publicised. Some spectators asked this reporter about ticket booths as they did not know about the free-entry facility and only came to the stadium after learning of the event from media.
“I have never watched any hockey match before even though I have seen cricket matches many times. Today I came here after learning about the Asia Cup on television,” Sonargoan University student Mohammad Rubel said. “I didn't know about free-entry, and someone had asked me to pay Tk 200 for a ticket, but I ignored it.”
Ferdous Alam, an employee of the High Court, said his office is close to the stadium yet he did not notice any banners or posters about the tournament, adding that he came here only after reading news about the tournament on newspapers.
However, Selim Mahmud, a businessman of Old Dhaka, is well aware of the tournament as he once played the game and now two of his sons are playing in the second division.
“I watched the 1985 Asia Cup from the stands and there were big crowds from the beginning of the tournament, so it is disappointing to see this low turnout,” said Mahmud, who believes the federation officials were busy with elections instead of promoting the event.
A BHF official, seeking anonymity, said that the tournament committee did not take any steps for publicity and only two horse-carriages were deployed for publicity around the stadium a few days ago.