The four semi-finalists – Palestine, Tajikistan, Philippines and host Bangladesh – arrived in the city Sunday afternoon after concluding the group-round fixtures in Sylhet
Cox’s Bazar is almost ready to host international football after eight years as the two semi-finals of the Bangabandhu Gold Cup are all set to be held on consecutive days at the oldest stadium of the district named after Bir Sreshtha Ruhul Amin.
The four semi-finalists – Palestine, Tajikistan, Philippines and host Bangladesh – arrived in the city Sunday afternoon after concluding the group-round fixtures in Sylhet.
It was learnt from a quick visit to the venue that the stadium has the capacity of making arrangement for not more than 10,000 spectators. The number is too small compared to Sylhet District Stadium that hosted more than their capacity of 30,000 during Bangladesh’s final group stage match against Philippines Friday.
The people of Cox’s Bazar are eagerly waiting to watch Bangladesh’s semi-final against favourite Palestine Wednesday.
Host Bangladesh put up a brave and dominating display but yet conceded a narrow 1-0 defeat against a much higher-ranked Philippines side in their final Group B match of the Bangabandhu Gold Cup at the jam-packed Sylhet District Stadium Friday evening.https://t.co/46EHiUAGag#BFF— Dhaka Tribune Sports (@Sport_DT) October 6, 2018
Sylhet District Sports Association vice-president Bijon Barua, also a BFF executive member, informed that giant screens will be set outside the stadium to meet the demand of deprived crowds.
The stadium, situated at the heart of the city and less than two kilometers east of the world’s largest sea beach, was built in 1956 through initiatives taken by renowned scholar and archaeologist Abul Kalam Mohammed Zakaria.
The revered scholar was posted as SDO in Cox’s Bazar during that period, but instead of receiving funds from erstwhile Pakistan government, the local people spontaneously contributed in raising the funds. The locality had been popularly known as Stadium Para since then.
Popularly known as Cox’s Bazar Stadium, the venue was renovated three years ago with the former two-storey main building converted to four-storey and new single row gallery was also built on the eastern side but it is still not enough.
The Sylhet District Stadium the venue for group games of Bangabandhu Gold Cup, would be remembered for an unreal scene four years ago when spectators broke the gate to get inside the venue during a friendly between the U23 teams of Bangladesh & Nepal.https://t.co/Z2qzLrkM9p#BFF— Dhaka Tribune Sports (@Sport_DT) October 2, 2018
The local organisers have been asking for expanding the gallery, installing flood-lights and building a gym for a long time but those pleas fell into deaf ears. Last time an international match or tournament was held in the venue was back in 2010 during the inaugural Saff Women’s Championship.
After that the home matches of Chittagong Abahani Limited in the Bangladesh Premier League were held for only a season.
The venue usually hosts cricket and volleyball events as well, along with its outer field on the south-western corner used for indoor events like karate, taekwondo and wushu among others.
Cox’s Bazar DSA football secretary Rashed Hossain Nannu also informed that the procedure of preparing the venue for hosting the two vital fixtures of Bangabandhu Gold Cup began on September 22, a day after the end of the district round matches of Bangabandhu Gold Cup U-17 Football Tournament.
Through a rally, a motorcycle showdown and a band party, a group of around 500 fans of home boy Biplo Ahmed continued to fill the south-western gallery of the Sylhet District Stadium during Bangladesh’s second Gold Cup group match against Philippines.https://t.co/HBVDdIb1Ha#BFF— Dhaka Tribune Sports (@Sport_DT) October 6, 2018
The preparation continued till Sunday. Bijon talked about their final touch of the preparation.
“The preparation is 80% done with two days left, mostly the ground works. The main problem for us now is preparing the two practice venues. The recent rain harmed the grounds. We got only 15 days, we tried our best but I’m happy with the preparation so far,” said Bijon.
He added, “Hope it will catch the attention during the two international matches that Cox’s Bazar football deserves more. The stadium badly needs an upgrade. To start with, we need a gallery, flood-lights and a gym at least.”
Meanwhile, Philippines and Tajikistan face each other in the first semi-final Tuesday before Bangladesh take on top-ranked Palestine the following day. It will be the first time that men’s international football matches will be held in Cox’s Bazar.