Honoring Bob Woolmer (1948-2007): Rename National Stadium, Karachi

Posted on March 18, 2011
Filed Under >Adil Najam, People, Society, Sports
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Adil Najam

(This post was first published at ATP on March 20, 2007 – two days after Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer died in mysterious circumstances during the 2007 World Cup played in the West Indies. Today, on his fourth death anniversary – as Pakistan plays in another World Cup – we believe that it is not just fitting to remember Bob Woolmer but the idea of honoring him with a permanent monument remains an idea worth resurrecting.)

Like so many others, I feel that we Pakistanis need to honor Bob Woolmer’s contribution to Pakistan cricket, to memorialize his tragic death, and celebrate his talented life. I believe that a good way to do so would be to rename National Stadium, Karachi, and call it the Woolmer Stadium.

The outpouring of emotions and affection for deceased Pakistan cricket coach, Bob Woolmer, is not surprising in its content, but certainly in its intensity. Pakistanis everywhere – and even those few who are not cricket fans – have been visibly shaken and shocked by his sudden death immediately after Pakistan lost to unrated and untested Ireland and kicked itself out of the 2007 World Cup Cricket.Political events at home right before his death – including the removal of the Chief Justice, the supression of protesting lawyers, the clamping down on the media, etc. – had already made for national discontent. The unravelling of the country’s beloved sport with the defeat against Ireland, Woolmer’s death, Inzimam’s retirement and PCB Chairman Nasim Ashraf’s resignation seems to have only added to a sense of national anguish, anger and angst.

Pakistanis have rallied to Bob Woolmer’s memory not just because of its tragic timing, but also for its symbolism. Amidst all of the shattered hopes, broken promises and fallen heroes, he has emerged as a – possibly the only – symbol of integrity of cause and decency of character. Given how tense and lonely his last many months in Pakistan had been, one only wishes that we had showered similar love and gratitude on him whilst he was alive.

The one thing that everyone seems to be craving for (and demanding) is to memorialize this moment as a reminder not only of how he died but as a celebration of how he lived and served Pakistan. Some have chosen to pay him tribute in poem. Many have written testaments of affection, respect and regret. Cricket discussion boards have been abuzz, many – if not all – are saying that we should find some way to honor him. Suggestions have been made for giving him a civil award, building a monument, naming a road or a stadium, etc. There is even a petition that has been launched for this purpose.

There is such fervor and unanimity in the desire to do something to commemorate his life and service to Pakistan, and so many discussions and ideas, that I have not even been able to survey them all. I am sure that others have proposed this already; if so, let me add to their voice; if not, let me throw this in the mix. A few points to think about:

  • National Stadium, Karachi, is one of two most important cricket grounds in Pakistan and naming it for Woolmer would be a fitting tribute to him.
  • Unlike ‘Gaddafi’ Stadium in Lahore, National Stadium is not really names after any person, and will therefore not need to be ‘un-named.’ Other options could be to name the Rawalpindi Stadium after him, but that may not remain a Test venue for long. While a new stadium is planned for Islamabad, one is never sure when and whether it will actually be built.
  • We at ATP have long felt that we as a nation do not honor the individuals who make a difference (e.g., here and here). We are especially lax at memorializing non-Pakistanis who have made important contributions (also here). Doing so for Woolmer would not only honor him, but it may also teach us the virtue of doing so; and, hopefully, doing so before it is too late. Hopefully, it may even set a trend for honoring others, some who may even deserve these honors even more and are still alive!

There are, obviously, other ways in which one could pay tribute to Bob Woolmer. Some are outlined in the petition that I have already mentioned. In the end, what matters is that we do something – whatever it may be – and do so soon. To honor him now is also a way of soothing our own grief; dealing with our own guilt (was it, indeed, our needlessly pronounced passions for the game that caused this?).

Alternatively, one could name the road in front of the stadium after him. That would not be a bad option, but would it be enough?

To name the stadium is to ensure that we will think of him, of what he did, and of what happened to him, each time there is a series in Pakistan. And long after the wounds of the defeat against Ireland have been forgotten, cricket commentators will explain the name of the stdium to their audiences by reminding that that no one should take a game – any game – any more seriously than just a game.

108 responses to “Honoring Bob Woolmer (1948-2007): Rename National Stadium, Karachi”

  1. BK says:

    Instead of Natinal Stadium Karachi , Lahore Qazafi Stadium should be renamed as Bob Woolmer Stadium

  2. Samurai Zauq says:

    But why? Did he win the world cup for us. We had an abysmal defeat by Ireland under Bob Woolmer’s coaching lead. Did Pakistanis kill him that they are trying to make him into a national hero? Is this a national guilt consensus.

    As if there are not enough Karachite, who have done good for the city, we have to name National Stadium after a failed coach. I propose Muhammad Haneef stadium.

    This is ridiculous, I thought it was a joke.

  3. Sarah says:

    Pakistan and Pakistanies MUST honor him by at least naming the Karachi’s National Stadium to Woolmer Stadium. Not just that he did his best for Pakistan cricket BUT he proved people wrong by staying and working in Pakistan for a long time. At a time when Pakistanis are running away from here…he stayed – isn’t this enough proof of his selflessness and dedication.

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