Pakistan’s sports authorities are busy these days finalising national contingent for the 18th Asian Games slated to be hosted by Indonesia in Jakarta and Palembang from August 18 to September 2.
In a joint meeting of Pakistan Sports Board (PSB), Pakistan Olympic Association (POA), Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) and national federations in Islamabad last Wednesday it was decided to begin training camps at different venues from June 20. The delayed beginning of training camps will certainly affect Pakistan’s performance in the biennial spectacle in which the cream of the continent will be in action. Some camps were in operation but the PSB had to halt them on May 15 due to funding issue which was really unfortunate for a country whose medal chances, especially of gold, in the Asian Games are already low.
Besides hockey and football, there is a hopeless situation with regard to the preparation.
Although the PSB claims to have supported camps for different events since July 7, 2017, I would tell the Board that by stopping the camps on May 15 the Board inflicted an unprecedented damage on the preparation of some disciplines like wrestling, ju-Jitsu and karate.
A senior official of the Board told me the other day that it is the responsibility of federations to run camps. He said that the Board would supplement their efforts. The official also said that POA should also supplement the state in holding camps for such events. The statement came after the NOC and federations showed reservations over the delaying tactics of the Board in establishing camps for the Asian Games.
The Board also suffered a lot during the last few months as its chiefs were changed a few times. And late release of its grant for the third quarter forced it to stop the camps. Instead of stopping some camps the PSB should have told the respective federations that they should manage their own camps for some time until the Board got the approved grant of Rs300 million in the third quarter. But halting camps was really damaging. Several years have passed but the coordination between the Board and federations hasn’t improved which shows how sports are governed in the country which has enormous potential in the field. Officials of several federations told me that it was not difficult for them to continue the camps had PSB promised that the amount which federations would spend on their camps would be reimbursed.
The final contingent strength for the Asiad will be decided in another joint meeting of the stakeholders on June 13 at Lahore. As per POA Pakistan will feature in 28 disciplines whose federations are affiliated with the POA and eight disciplines whose federations are not affiliated with the National Olympic Committee (NOC).
The Board has decided to back those athletes for the Asian Games who are either in the medal zone, or very close to it. In the June 13 meeting in Lahore the federations will have to convince the PSB that the teams and players they want to send to Indonesia have the potential to fight for the medal or offer tough resistance to the continent’s leading players. According to POA the participation of a contingent of 380 of the affiliated federations and 70 of the non-affiliated federations is in the plans. It would be interesting to see how much the PSB would reduce this strength. The POA has obliged all those federations which approached it.
Federations are bound to submit entries by name with the POA by June 10. Before finalising the contingent, the authorities should ensure that coaches accompany all touring squads in order to get the maximum from the national athletes. In 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games Japan-based judoka Shah Hussain had been fielded without a coach. He won silver but faced problems because of not having a coach.
Similarly, in the recently held 21st Commonwealth Games in Australia javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem suffered in the absence of a coach. In the 2017 Islamic Games national wushu fighters suffered as no coach had been sent with them. There are several other examples. A coach plays a very important role in an athlete’s performance. And both the PSB and POA should take this factor into consideration before giving final touches to national contingent. Sri Lanka’s shooting federation has decided not to field its squad in the Asian Games because of the continuous disagreement of its NOC to allow a coach with the team.
Although Asian Games are just a couple of months away, the PSB should support foreign training tours of those federations whose athletes have the capability to spring some surprise in the continent’s biggest assignment.
Mere training in Pakistan would not make our players able to give any laudable performance. Wushu, wrestling, kabaddi and ju-jitsu need special attention.
Boxing also deserves support as featuring in the Asian Games would help national pugilists to learn ahead of the 2020 Olympic qualifiers.
Olympian judoka Shah Hussain and the country’s top karateka Saadi Abbas also need to be helped properly as they have the capability to finish at the victory podium in the Asian Games.
As the POA has differences with judo and cycling federations over some legal issues their cases will be decided by the POA Executive Committee. The Board will also not sponsor the teams from federations of football, archery, basketball and table tennis as they are not affiliated with the Board.
I would advise the POA chief Lt Gen (retd) Syed Arif Hasan to use his influence and enter into a deal with any strong sporting nation which could help Pakistan in enhancing the technical proficiency of its athletes. The Sri Lankan NOC’s president Suresh Subramanian has signed a deal in Beijing with the China NOC chief Gou Zhongwen under which China would provide free of cost training opportunities to Sri Lankan athletes in China to prepare for the South Asian Games slated to be held in Nepal in March 2019.
Sri Lanka, who finished second after winners India in the previous South Asian Games in India in 2016, is preparing to finalise its cream in all disciplines for sending to China in near future. China has also pledged that it would also help Sri Lanka in enhancing its sports facilities, besides sending its coaches to Colombo for coaching the Sri Lankan players. This is a huge boost for Sri Lanka, a developing sporting nation. And it is the Sri Lankan NOC which brokered the deal. I hope having served for so long as POA President General Arif has the capability to strike such a deal with a major country in near future.