It’s a picture of neglect. And that’s the biggest reason why badminton in Pakistan is in a serious mess. The country had a rich history in the sport, particularly in the 1970s when Pakistan’s players would perform well at the international level.
Tariq Wadood was one of the finest players of that decade. He was the world’s second-ranked player in 1978. He is said to have settled in America.
In 1982, Zubair Ahmed of Bahawalpur annexed the French Open title.
As a team Pakistan’s best performances were in the 1974 Tehran Asian Games when the country beat badminton giants Korea 3-1 and Japan 3-0, an achievement which the nation is still proud of. At that time, a former player Naqi Mohsin was acting as secretary of Pakistan Badminton Federation (PBF). The same Naqi is still attached with the PBF as senior vice-president.
However, since 1980s Pakistan’s badminton has been on the decline. Talent has never been an issue but the lack of proper patronage and the rapid and constant progress of other nations in the sport have forced Pakistan’s downward slide.
Now Pakistan trails at the rock bottom in international circuit. India recently won silver medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics in badminton when PV Sindhu defied all the odds to achieve the milestone. The female player was awarded around 85.5 million Indian rupees besides a BMW car for her stupendous performance in Brazil. Her coach Gopichand was also honoured.
As per Badminton World Federation’s (BWF) rankings, released on November 10, 2016, there are eight Indian players in the top hundred of the world. Pakistan’s Rizwan Azam stands at 394th place. Even Neluka of Sri Lanka occupies 77th spot, much better than Pakistan.
Similarly, four Indian girls are in the top hundred. Palwasha Bashir of Pakistan stands at the 256th spot and Mahoor Shahzad is at the 312th place.
India’s sports budget is 15.41 billion Indian rupees. Pakistan’s is just Rs631 million.
Cleavage at different levels in Pakistan’s badminton community played a key role in the destruction of badminton. The divide still exists as several parallel bodies are working.
Pakistan faced international isolation from 2011 to 2014 because of the “PBF’s involvement in human trafficking and bogus entries in international events”. The issue was investigated by the FIA but it gave it up after the death of a top PBF official who could have played a key role towards reaching the main culprits.
Pakistan last conducted its 53rd National Championship in 2011 at Islamabad. Although the new PBF set-up, being led by former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain, held a National Championship last year, it could not be named as the 54th edition because of legal issues.
The Nazar Gondal group is still fighting a legal battle against the Iftikhar-led PBF.
Although the PBF’s secretary Chaudhry Wajid Ali is a former international player, I think he is too busy in his sports goods business and does not have much time to serve badminton.
Iftikhar is a politician and seems to have hardly any spare time for the game’s development. It’s time to remove the mess. The club culture needs to be revived. The game should be re-started at educational institutions so that budding talent could be identified and brought to the mainstream for grooming.
Pakistan’s participation in maximum international competitions should be made possible. The amount that the PBF receives from the government is not sufficient for the game’s revival. Not only should the federation generate its own revenues by bringing in sponsors but it should also establish strong working relationships with the badminton world in order to get benefit from the various global sports development programmes.
Ask Pakistan’s most qualified coach Raziuddin Ahmed and he will tell you what is wrong and what needs to be done for the game’s development.
“Pakistan’s badminton has a turbulent history. Apart from a few good years in the 1970s the things have always seemed to be derailed. In the 63 years history Pakistan wasted almost 24 years (1982–2002 and 2010–2014) due to parallel bodies’ issues. The actors involved are politicians who don’t know anything about the game. The current PBF president did not take pain to even visit Islamabad where the federation hosted an international event recently. This shows how serious these people for the promotion of badminton,” Razi told ‘The News on Sunday’ (TNS).
“You will be surprised to know how unprofessional our PBF officials have been. Pakistan’s best players Wajid Ali (singles), Rizwan Azam and Attique Chaudhry (doubles) improved their international rankings up to 74 and 60, respectively, before 2008 Beijing Olympics and they were close to qualifying for Olympics but the PBF stopped them from playing in any more events, not knowing what Pakistan could have achieved. And so the federation deprived the country of an opportunity to make its Olympic debut. It was an unforgettable blunder,” said Razi, who will complete his level-III coaching course next year.
“Merit is never followed and this has been the main ailment of the PBF — whether it be players’ selection, coaches’ selection or umpires’. Murad Ali, a top player, was ignored for the 2014 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. Zahid Hussain from Quetta was sent with the team as coach for Junior International Championship in Bangkok this year despite his low coaching credentials,” he said.
“The PBF has been split into Lahore and KP groups who are using PBF chief Iftikhar Hussain for their vested interests. Unless ghosts associations are wiped out and fair elections are ensured the problems would not be resolved,” Razi pointed out.
“Pakistan will need to take drastic steps for badminton’s improvement. There is a need for improved working relationships among all stakeholders, fair elections at all levels, building sponsors’ trust, talent hunt programmes, activation of all units, both departmental and provincial, through regular championships, execution of long and short-term athlete development structure, promotion of the game at school level and the establishment of an international standard academy. I want to see national champions in the under-19 lot,” he said.
“The PBF needs to hold international events in Pakistan which would attract the youth towards the game. Pakistan recently hosted a sub-standard international event in Islamabad in which only 14 mediocre players from Canada, Nepal, Iraq, New Zealand and Syria featured. At the end it was an all-Pakistan affair as the foreigners failed to do well. The reduction of prize money from 15,000 US dollars to 6000 US dollars also discouraged foreign entries. Nepal was the only South Asian nation who sent its players. Even Iran, Bahrain, Dubai and Saudi Arabia where Pakistani shuttlers regularly feature in various events could not be attracted which shows that the PBF has not worked on international relations which is the basic function of a governing body in any sport. In the event a referee from a small country like Maldives delivered services but Pakistan had no qualified referee to work on the panel. The PBF should work for education of its technical officials,” said Razi.