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Encouraging signs

Strawberry Sports Management, the first sports management company of Pakistan, will hold leagues of kabaddi, wrestling and volleyball in the country

Encouraging signs

In the modern world, sports can be developed in a country only by holding leagues on professional basis. If we look at India, we will find that it has grasped the importance of sports. Besides its cricket league, India has started holding professional leagues in football, kabaddi, hockey, badminton and tennis.

In these leagues, which also feature foreign players, huge money is offered to the leading players.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) took a bold step to start its professional T20, the Pakistan Super League (PSL), and its second edition completed recently with the final in Lahore.

But there is no concept of holding leagues of other sports disciplines. A couple of years ago Pakistan Kabaddi Federation (PKF) thought that it should launch its own league on the pattern of the Pro Kabaddi League of India. But the federation failed to do so because of various problems.

But there are people who take the risk. And Haider Ali Daud Khan is one of them. A former student of Cadet College Hasan Abdal, Haider is the head of the Strawberry Sports Management, the first sports management company of Pakistan which will hold leagues of kabaddi, wrestling and volleyball in the country.

The relevant federations will act as technical collaborators and providers of players. The first target of the company is to hold Super Kabaddi League (SKL) from May 16 at the Punjab Stadium Lahore.

It would be followed by the wrestling league, also this year. Its official name is yet to be decided. It would be followed by volleyball league, most probably from late this year or early next year.

Haider seems to be a shrewd person who chose disciplines in which Pakistan has a potential market.

There is a terrific fan-base of these disciplines in different regions of Pakistan. A right plan and its flawless execution could bring a revolution in Pakistan’s sports.

Strawberry Sports Management has entered into long-term agreements with the federations of these disciplines. Football is also on the radar of Haider as it is the most captivating game with a huge following in Karachi and Balochistan.

But he is waiting for the football dispute to be resolved which has been lingering since April 2015.

ALAM ZEB-Football

If diligently undertaken, the projects would provide not only good entertainment to the depressed people of Pakistan but would also boost the financial status of the players.

The engagement of foreign players in these leagues would improve Pakistan’s image. Since the terrorists attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team bus in Lahore in March 2009, Pakistan has been a red zone for foreign teams and global stars.

But now the situation has turned much better and bringing in foreign athletes for any league may not be a tough task.

Holding of the PSL final in Lahore, which involved global stars, has improved Pakistan’s image. After the final, the Leisure League and World Group announced that they would be bringing Brazilian star Ronaldinho to Pakistan in July.

And after a few days the Pro Wrestling Entertainment (PWE) declared that it would be holding freestyle wrestling shows in Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore in May. As many as 25 leading wrestlers from 20 nations of the five continents would dazzle the stage in these cities.

Haider’s initiative would also boost club culture and a strong back-up crop could be developed which would serve the country in international circuit for decades to come. The leagues would be franchise-based and would feature foreign players also.

Ask Haider Daud and he will tell you some of the details about his project. “We opted to work on these disciplines because we knew that these are indigenous sports and are part of the social texture for decades,” Haider told ‘The News on Sunday’ (TNS) in an interview.

“First, we will hold Super Kabaddi League (SKL) which will begin on May 16 at Lahore. There will be a minimum of six teams, owned by franchises in the names of different cities. The rest of the details regarding owners of the franchises and other relevant matters will be unveiled soon,” Haider said.

“I cannot say anything about bringing Indian players for the SKL this year but no doubt we are in contact with the players from Canada and Iran and hopefully some of them will be part of the draft.

“The wrestling league will be held in 2017. I cannot give you exact dates as there are certain things yet to be finalised. We will keep certain things under consideration before going for wrestling league.

The schedule of the international engagement of Pakistan is also very busy and we are looking for a suitable time-frame,” Haider said. “The response regarding media partners and corporate sector is encouraging and several people are interested in franchises. I am very much optimistic about the success of what we are going to do,” Haider added.

“After kabaddi and wrestling, volleyball is our next target. Its league will be held towards the end of the year or early next year,” he said.

No doubt it’s a huge step taken by Haider. A fine start would guarantee a big success in times to come. It is important to select the most ideal venues for the competitions of kabaddi and wrestling.

And creating a hype before the proper launch is very important.

Soon our kabaddi, wrestling and volleyball heroes will make places in the hearts of the people like cricketers.

It will create a hope that in Pakistan cricket is not the only sport which is loved by the people.

Alam Zeb Safi

Alam Zeb copy
The writer is a sports reporter at The News International. He may be reached at [email protected]

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