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Tales of tragedy, triumph from Gaddafi Stadium

AFP
Published : Sep 9, 2017, 1:53 am IST
Updated : Sep 9, 2017, 1:53 am IST

Gaddafi Stadium, which has witnessed both history and controversy — and is now preparing to retake cricket’s world stage.

Workers clean Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium, which has witnessed both history and controversy — and is now preparing to retake the world stage. (Photo: AFP)
 Workers clean Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium, which has witnessed both history and controversy — and is now preparing to retake the world stage. (Photo: AFP)

Lahore: Groundsmen are rolling down the pitches, welders are repairing barbed wire, and workers are splashing on a new coat of paint at Pakistan’s centrepiece 
Gaddafi Stadium, which has witnessed both history and controversy — and is now preparing to retake cricket’s world stage.

Next week the ground will ring out with the sound of Pakistan’s national anthem once more as the home team takes on a star-studded World XI, the highest-profile international fixture in the country since a deadly militant attack eight years ago.

The three-match Twenty20 series will be played under tight security but it is, officials hope, a new chapter for Pakistani cricket — and for the Gaddafi Stadium’s bloody, scandal-plagued and, at times, glorious story.

Named after the Libyan leader who met a grisly end at the hands of rebel fighters, the ground has seen a World Cup final and a militant attack, and has been caught up in Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions and geopolitical rivalries.

It is at the heart of the most tragic incident in Pakistan’s sporting history, after the Sri Lankan team had to be airlifted to safety when militants attacked their team bus near the stadium in 2009.

The attack, which killed eight people and wounded nine, drove international cricket — and most other sports — from the militancy-plagued country, forcing 
Pakistan to host its “home” fixtures in neutral venues. The 27,000-capacity venue has still seen moments of glory even since its peak when it hosted the 1996 World Cup final, won by Sri Lanka against Australia.

‘You just feel the sadness’ 
Emotions ran high when minnows Zimbabwe became the first international team to return in 2015, allowing Pakistan to play in front of their home fans.

But, even as security improves dramatically, Pakistan has laboured to convince top Test-playing nations to return. “(The 2009 attack) was the biggest blow I think Pakistan cricket would have faced,” Haroon Rashid, the director of cricket operations for Pakistan Cricket Board said. 

Tags: world xi, gaddafi stadium
Location: Pakistan, Punjab, Lahore