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Gaddafi Stadium? Time for a Name Change

May 23rd, 2015 · No Comments · Cricket

It comes as a surprise every time I see it.

The big cricket stadium in Lahore, Pakistan?

Gaddafi Stadium.

Yes, that Gaddafi. Muammar Gaddafi. Or Qaddafi or Kadafi, or other spellings by which he was known.

By any name, he was the bloody despot who ruled Libya with an iron fist for 42 years — before his own people overthrew him in 2011 and killed him after he was found hiding in a drainage pipe. His corpse was then displayed in public for four days, with Libyans coming from all over the country to see his body — not that the citizenry was angry with him, or anything.

And that is the man whose name is attached to the stadium where Pakistan ended six years of international cricket isolation today and yesterday.

Yes. Bizarre.

If we trust the Gaddafi Stadium wiki page … the stadium originally was known as Lahore Stadium, but Pakistan chose to change the name to Gaddafi Stadium “following a speech he gave at the 2nd Organization of the Islamic Conference meeting in Lahore in favor of Pakistan’s right to pursue nuclear weapons”.

Ah, so it was for a good, brotherly reason. “I defend your right to pursue nuclear weapons.”

And Pakistan was grateful, and there you go — “our biggest sport, one of our most significant stadiums — in your name!” For a man who apparently had absolutely no connection to cricket.

That was in 1974. Weird stuff went on back then. Some liberals thought Gaddafi was a progressive force, in 1974. A sort of North African Che Guevara. Some people still thought the Soviet Union was a force for good then, too.

In 2009, Pakistan played host to Sri Lanka for a cricket series. On the third day of the second Test, terrorists attacked the convoy taking the Sri Lanka team to Gaddafi Stadium, and eight people died. Six members of the Lanka party were wounded.

For six years, no one would play Pakistan in Pakistan. And could you blame them? (Instead, most of Pakistan’s “home” matches were played in the UAE, where teams could drive to the grounds without being attacked.) It was painful for Pakistan fans, because cricket is their national sport. But it was necessary, too.

So, when Pakistan induced poor, broke Zimbabwe to come play in Lahore, six years after the terror attack, and amid extraordinary security, the domestic game resumed in a stadium named after a man best known as a sponsor of international terror. (Remember Lockerbie?)

If we stipulate we kinda sorta understand how the stadium came to have “Gaddafi” on it, back in 1974 … why oh why does it still, 41 years later?

Hitler once was popular, but no stadium carries his name. Same with Stalin, who had a city named for him — till the Russians came to their senses. Same with lots of bad men. But they don’t get to keep their names on stadiums, especially in nations not their own. Especially when they are dead and gone and recognized for what they were.

Gaddafi is not in power. He is not alive. His reputation is in the mud. He was killed by his own citizens.

Would not that suggest to officials in Pakistan that he was, perhaps, not the kind of guy you want to associate with one of your best-known stadiums?

If Pakistan is serious about “come here and play us” thing, they may want to consider a new name for Lahore’s venue.

Lahore Stadium works just fine, doesn’t it?



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