KMC Football Stadium, past and present

From AZ Aamir

KMC Football Stadium has been the most popular and crowd-pulling venue because of its location. Established in 1956, the lush green venue has a rich heritage. Surrounded by huge population, it has been the home venue for KMC football team, formed in around the same decade in which the venue was established.

Aqil Khan, the then patron of KMC team, who served as head clerk in the Baldia Uzma Karachi, adored football and had a key role in the development of KMC team. At that time players from the minority like Jospeh and Lakshman had key role in the team’s make-up, being the most solid players of their age..

Besides them the team around 1964 also had Aslam Madari, a solid right-out, Qadir Muchar, Haroon, Master Yar Mohammad, Ghulam Ghoro, Abdul Wahid, Abdul Qadir Pehalwan, Ibrahim and stopper Swali. In 1964, KMC faced a huge 6-0 loss against Karachi Port Trust (KPT) in front of the jam-packed venue. The outcome left KMC administration hugely disappointed. An emergent meeting was convened. It was decided that some good players should be scouted for induction into the brigade. And after a few years KMC re-emerged as a real threat for the oppositions. In around 1956, a real rivalry on the field was witnessed when Keamari Union and Baloch XI failed to beat each other in six matches, all finishing without goal.

In the seventh show when both teams were on the field the pavilion of KMC Football Stadium caved in that injured around 100 fans. However no one sustained serious injuries and were discharged from hospital following treatment. The government had instructed the Commissioner Karachi Roedad Khan to facilitate the treatment of those injured in the unfortunate incident. Shocked by the incident Field Marshal Ayub Khan ordered Roedad to build the stadium and the venue was later properly constructed. The venue wrote history to its name when in 1964-1965, Sardar Khan, a cyclist, rode consistently for 160 hours to set a record. Soon after motivated by the stunning feat from Sardar, Majid Shakil rode for 170 hours, instead, to smash that record.

In this avenue Akhara had also been established. At that time film star Sawan and qawwal Saleh Mohammad also used to wrestle there. On one corner of the venue, there were two houses. In one Hanif Nasir, Director Culture and Sports KMC, used to reside. And in the other former squash greats Hashim Khan, Roshan Khan and Azam Khan used to live. They were also doing coaching. Squash legend Jehangir Khan’s coach Rehmat Khan and the latter’s elder brother Amanullah, a lawn tennis player, also used to live there. However in 1971-1972, Urdu College students occupied that area which also had KMC officers club that contained a badminton hall, three lawn tennis courts and one squash court. In the sixties teams from Russia, Saudi Arabia, China, Korea, Iran, Turkey and Indonesia visited Karachi and played matches against different oppositions. Karachi Combined had held Indonesia to a 2-2 draw at KMC Stadium. A huge crowd witnessed that game. In the latest part of the same decade a couple of East Pakistan outfits visited Karachi for an event eventually won by EPIDC when they beat KPT 1-0 in the final at the KMC Stadium.

“I have seen in my life that when an All Pakistan event used to start 20000 fans would throng the venue. Because of the huge fans’ response two days before the match ticket-sale used to begin,” KMC Stadium administrator and former FIFA referee Ahmed Jan told in an interview.

“When spectators would enter the stadium, so those going towards the pavilion end would support KPT and those moving towards East were backing the other teams,” Jan said.

“At the end of the match experienced fans used to sit in the middle of the pitch to comment on the match. They were so experienced and had so much knowledge of the sport that they even knew which department was going to pick which player,” Jan said.

Former Pakistan captain Ali Nawaz used to play for KMC and would get Rs150 salary.

Ali, who then joined PIA, went to England, Dubai before re-joining PIA which he served until his retirement.

Ali Nawaz Baloch

In 1968 All Pakistan Mohammad Ali Bogra tournament was conducted in Rawalpindi. In that event KMC had held Dhaka Mohammaden to a 1-1 draw.. KMC, however, were declared champions on points.

In Agha Khan Gold Cup in Dhaka in those years, KMC , KPT and Railways were also among the participants.

“Before 1971 in this tournament a match turned into war. KPT were leading the match against Dhaka Mohammaden. Moosa Ghazi, representing Dhaka Mohammaden, told the fans to raid the pitch. Moosa, no doubt, was a great player.

Moosa’s brother Abid Ghazi, was equally a superb footballer and gentleman unlike Moosa.

In a match against Russia in the now Hockey Club of Pakistan in 1970 Russia crushed Pakistan with an whopping 11-goal margin. “I don’t know why Pakistan did not play captain Umar as he was in the reserves. When he was sent onto the pitch in the second half he scored through a superb header that forced the spectators to stand on their feet. Had Captain Umar played in the entire game the result could have been different,” Jan said.

In those times KMC Sports Secretary Fareed Awan, who was also the KMC Employees Union General Secretary, organised good tournaments. His aim was to improve the standard of KMC team and he was quite successful.

He also raised salaries of the players which helped them lead their lives comfortably.

Then Gulab Baloch was made sports head but he could not deliver.

“Then I was given charge of the KMC stadium. Gulab Baloch tried to create hurdles in my way. I went to his home and told him that such infighting is not good. If you don’t not want me to take charge then I will force my way into the stadium as I have been appointed and it is not any body’s property. Later I was handed over charge during a good ceremony in 1992-1993,” Jan said. “And since then I have been working day and night and have maintained the venue until now,” Jan said.

Jan has served as FIFA referee in the World Cup qualifiers in 17 countries.

Under Jan KMC team also twice featured in the Walai Swat football tournament in Swat beating Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) twice in the final 1-0. And what happened to Jan in that time.

“When I returned by air from Swat after former IG Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Saeed Khan given me air-ticket, two persons came to my office and shot me with bullets. Some bullets went through my abdomen, some tore apart one side of the chest and a few went through legs. I was shifted to Civil Hospital and Allah blessed me with a new life. And since then I have been taking care of the KMC Stadium the way a mother takes care of her child,” Jan recalled.

When Abdul Sattar Afghani was Karachi Mayor KMC twice went to China through his support to feature in the twin sisters tournament there, also carrying China and Japan.

“KMC although did not win but gave tough time to strong teams of China and Japan. I did not pick outsiders for the tour but mostly chose those players who I trained as I did not need a coach. I had gained knowledge from captain Mohammad Umar who also played for Dhaka Mohammaden,” Jan said.

“A few years ago a group of people came to my office and told me to leave the venue and hand the charge to them so that a wedding hall could be established there. I was told that I will be given one percent income. I told them to leave and don’t dare to come again,” Jan said.

With the Peoples Sports Complex having left highly deserted, KMC Stadium is the only vital venue of Karachi where crowds come to witness football. Even at local level events huge crowd come to witness the action. It would be of great value if fans’ enclosures are properly reconstructed and, if possible, are covered. This would enable it to meet the pressing demand of football.

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