Despite having been in office for almost a year, the government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) does not seem to be handling the country’s sports properly. It is taking too much time in making decisions which is hurting the interests of sportspersons.
It has shown little inclination to support the athletes who are aiming to fight for Olympic seats. Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) and the ministry for Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) seem clueless about how to begin preparations for the 13th South Asian Games, slated to be hosted by Nepal in Kathmandu and Pokhara from December 1-10.
PSB Director General Arif Ibrahim said in a couple of interviews two months ago that federations were allowed to hold camps and the Board would provide them facilities of every kind. But where are the camps?
Various sources in federations told me that the Board had asked them for submitting their preparation plans. They said that most of the federations had sent their plans, some before and some during Ramadan. But they have not yet received any response. Reminders have also been sent, they said.
IPC minister Dr Fehmida Mirza is being wrongly advised by some experienced officials of the Board who don’t want sports to flourish despite knowing what was needed for its development.
As the government is going to restructure the PSB, there should be no place in the new set up for most PSB officials who always have been seen involved in politics.
South Asian Games are important in the sense that we can grab medals in them. But it is not that too easy these days. The other nations of the region have progressed rapidly. In the last South Asian Games, in India in 2016, Sri Lanka (25 gold) finished second, after India (188 gold). Pakistan stood third with only 12 gold medals.
India has now emerged as a global power, having won medals in the world’s major competitions over the years. And keeping in view the strength of India, Pakistan must prepare well for South Asian Games.
As the government is going to restructure the PSB, there should be no place in the new set up for most PSB officials who always have been seen involved in politics
India has great talent in wrestling, weightlifting, shooting, badminton, athletics, swimming and tennis.
In order to offer them resistance there is a great need to begin training camps as soon as possible.
Sri Lanka has also improved a lot over the years, particularly in athletics. Sri Lanka constantly provides its athletes with international training.
We have a good chance to compete efficiently in martial arts, shooting and athletics.
Training only at home will not work. Realistically speaking if we only relied on domestic preparation we will not be able to displace Sri Lanka from the second place. Our athletes have not been given any international exposure since the 18th Asian Games held in Indonesia in August and September last year.
The basic reason behind this drought is the lack of government support. Barring cricket, which earns its own revenues, and football, which is backed by FIFA and AFC, sports disciplines need government patronage.
A sports discipline cannot pull sponsors and become a brand unless it starts producing medals in major international events. And only the government can make them capable of doing that.
Our Prime Minister Imran Khan only thinks in the context of cricket and so he cannot do justice with other sports. His government has ambitious programmes for youth but sports sector has been neglected.
The PTI government thinks federations have been eating money they get from international bodies. I don’t think those who advise the IPC ministry are sincere with sports. They don’t know demands of modern sports which have become too expensive.
Had Pakistan’s top athletes been provided with international exposure during the last ten months, the training camps for SAG could have been delayed. But now there is no room for delay. Immediate steps should be taken to launch preparations for SAG this month.
As National Games would be held at Peshawar from October 26 to November 1, the camps would have to be broken in the middle. The departments would set up their own camps for the biennial event. However, it was decided at a high-level meeting in Lahore a few days ago that after featuring in the National Games athletes would directly move to their national camps.
India’s athletes are always in training. Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have also started preparations. As summer this year is very hot, effort should be made to hold camps at Abbottabad.
Meanwhile, a massive Rs5.26 billion budget has been proposed for the sub-continental event in Nepal. Pitambar Timsina, the vice-president of National Sports Council and the coordinator of the Budget Formation Taskforce, handed over the draft of the proposed budget to the Youth and Sports Minister Jagat Sunar last Sunday. “The budget appears massive but it is prepared after careful study and consultations with experts of the respective fields,” Timsina said.
There will be contests in as many as 27 disciplines: archery, athletics, badminton, basketball, boxing, cricket, cycling, fencing, football, golf, handball, judo, kabbadi, karate, kho kho, paragliding, shooting, squash, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, triathlon, volleyball, weightlifting, wresting and wushu.