(File pix) Several notes of Bangladesh’s currency, Taka. Business is conducted outside Dhaka’s Maulana Bhashani Hockey Stadium in Taka and US dollars. Pix courtesy of NST Reader

DHAKA: The Maulana Bhashani Hockey Stadium in Dhaka, Bangladesh, is surrounded by petty traders who sell all kinds of food, household items and everything else imaginable.

Even currency is exchanged in the open, by sidewalk changers who openly carry sacks of Taka and US dollars.

All business is conducted by the sidewalk, on trishaws, on makeshift tables and even carried in baskets resting on heads – and it’s chaotic as can be.

The selling frenzy is compounded by a choked street, with ever-honking buses, cars, trishaws and an ever mobile river of pedestrians filling up all the gaps that are left.

Once inside the stadium, built in 1987, the situation is similar.

Welcome to the press working area where chai-walas, samosas (like curry puff) and 250 journalists cram together to record Asia Cup moments.

Yes, 250 journalists from print and TV stations, with only three being from foreign countries.

The press box is as chaotic as the streets surrounding Maulana Bhashani, for loud conversations, and even louder cheers when a goal is scored or food is served, is exactly how it is like in the street bazars outside.

However, it’s a pity that even though the Bangladesh Hockey Federation (BHF) did everything they could to spruce up the old stadium and make it look like a bride ready for marriage, the crowds are missing from the stands.

BHF spent US$1.5 million fixing floodlights, a gigantic scoreboard with instant replays and dolled up other aspects of the stadium – but it has been void of fans – even though entrance is free.

The stadium can accommodate 10,000 people, but even when Bangladesh played Pakistan, there was hardly a crowd of 1,500, including journalists, the police, army and officials.

The Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) did a great job in making sure the stadium is 50 per cent better than when Dhaka hosted the World League Round Two in March.

AHF CEO Datuk Tayyab Ikram of Macau took personal interest in making sure nothing was left to chance.

The AHF president is Tunku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah.

In March, even though the stadium was in a deplorable condition, with toilets best shied away from, Malaysia beat China for the gold medal.

And at the spruced-up venue, Malaysia started their Asia Cup campaign with a 7-1 drubbing of China.

Hopefully, good fortune strikes twice at the same spot.

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