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Meetings won’t do

Pakistan’s sports problems are countless. Unless a serious effort is made to overcome these issues, the country cannot make its presence felt at the international level

Meetings won’t do
B

oth the Senate and National Assembly standing and special committees these days are seen grilling officials of various national sports federations and Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) about different matters relating to sports. But such steps have never benefitted the country’s sports. The important thing is that these people are not aware of the country’s sports and its system.

They convene meetings on various issues, interrogate the sports officials, rebuke them and so make headlines. These people can do a lot for sports if they seriously want to.

They should know that Pakistan is not capable anymore of impressing in international sports keeping in view the competitive environment. Other nations are busy in investing heavily in sports while we have completely ignored the area. They should forget that Pakistan would win Olympic and World Cup crowns in hockey in decades if we did not change our attitude towards the national game.

In squash we have ruled the world, in boxing we have been prolific in the past at least at the Asian level and the country’s athletes in some other sports disciplines have also sometimes sprung surprises in international circuit but such things cannot be expected any more.

Within the available national sports budget, it would remain a dream to make improvement in the sector. The Commonwealth Games and Asian Games are just around the corner for other nations but these events are very far away for Pakistan as we have not yet started full-fledged preparations.

Because of the scarcity of funds, federations cannot send national athletes abroad for training. And hiring the services of foreign coaches also seems to be a tough task these days for the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) which is not an independent body, working under the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC).

Some of our athletes feature in top-level international events without a coach and manager.

Because of Pakistan’s reputation in international cricket, cricket is attached with every game and we even saw it recently when FIFA World Cup trophy was brought to Lahore for a day. We do so because we don’t take other sports seriously. Our heroes in other sports become zero in front of our cricketers. This should stop. We should respect our stars in other sports as well.

Lack of equipment has added to the miseries of the federations and associations which don’t have money to run their affairs independently.

Pakistan does not have sufficient sports infrastructure and therefore we cannot organise an international event bigger than the South Asian Games. In fact, Pakistan will need to enhance its infrastructure at the Pakistan Sports Complex, Islamabad, if it wants to host the South Asian Games in future, a spectacle which Pakistan has organised twice.

We go abroad and see the infrastructure of the other countries but we never try to establish such in our own country. Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain last year must have seen the amazing sports infrastructure established by Turkmenistan in its capital Ashgabat but I don’t think he ever tried to convince the government to establish such a facility which may help Pakistan organise international events in a befitting way.

A senior official of the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) Syed Aqil Shah suggested to the government to establish sports infrastructure along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) but I think nobody in the government circle took that seriously.

Pakistan’s sports problems are countless. Unless a serious effort is made to overcome these issues, the country cannot make its presence felt at the international level.

If the legislatures sometimes invite Pakistan’s top players for meeting, they will know what problems the country’s athletes are facing in international circuit.

To put Pakistan’s sports on the right track, we need to restructure the PSB, bring such people in its corridor who have expertise in the relevant fields. Political appointments have damaged the Board which is the strongest sports governing body, handling all the economic and infrastructure aspects of the field.

Senate and National Assembly standing and special committees should not waste time and resources on meetings. It would be a great service for the country if they rather sought the assistance of sports experts and impose sports emergency in the country by convincing the federal government. This would provide a viable sports system, based on checks and balances, to the country which would automatically resolve all the administrative, economic and other cardinal issues. If we did not reform our system, sports would continue to suffer.

Alam Zeb Safi

Alam Zeb copy
The writer is a sports reporter at The News International. He may be reached at 73.alam@gmail.com.

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