by Alam Zeb Safi
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 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, loved football and had a key role in the development of KMC team. At that time players from minorities 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.
In 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 a 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. The then government had instructed the then 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 when in 1964-1965, Sardar Khan, a cyclist, rode for 160 hours to set a record. Soon afterwards, Majid Shakil rode for 170 hours 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 one, 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 player of lawn tennis, also used to live there. However, in 1971-72 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 1960s, 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. A huge crowd witnessed that game. In the later part of the 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.
Karachi Wonders, KMC, PIA, Warsak Club Peshawar, Army, Navy, PAF, Sindh Government Press were also part of that tournament.
“I have seen in my life that when an All Pakistan event used to start 20,000 fans used to throng the venue. Because of the huge response two days before the match ticket sale used to begin,” KMC Stadium administrator and former FIFA referee Ahmed Jan told ‘The News on Sunday’ (TNS) in an interview.
“When spectators would enter the stadium those going towards the pavilion end used to support KPT and those moving towards east were backing the other teams,” Jan said.
“At the end of the match old people 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 is going to pick which player,” Jan said.
Former Pakistan captain Ali Nawaz used to play for KMC for a meagre salary of Rs150.
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 among the participants from West Pakistan.
“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 at Hockey Club of Pakistan in 1970 Russia crushed Pakistan with a whopping 11 goal margin. “I don’t know why Pakistan did not play captain Umar as he was in reserve. 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 want me to take charge then I will force my way into the stadium as I have been appointed. Later I was handed over charge during a 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 him, KMC Stadium also twice featured in the Wali Swat football tournament in Swat beating Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) twice in the final 1-0.
“When I returned by air from Swat after former IG Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Saeed Khan gave me air-ticket two persons came to my office and shot me. 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 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 never dare to come again,” Jan said.
With the People’s Sports Complex having been left unattended, KMC Stadium is the only venue of Karachi where crowds come to witness football. Even at local-level events huge crowds come to witness the action. It would be of great value if fans enclosures were properly reconstructed and covered. This would enable it to meet the pressing demand of football.