The sports arena of Pakistan is a big mess right now. Just ahead of the Asian Games, things seem to have gone out of control. There is no federal secretary to run sports. The caretaker interior minister Azam Khan has been given additional charge of the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC).
The Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) Director General Arif Ibrahim is also serving as acting boss of the country’s strongest sports body.
When this article was being written, it was not yet confirmed how many athletes and officials would be sponsored by the Board for the Asian Games which are less than two months away. At a meeting of the stakeholders at Lahore on June 13, it had been decided that the Board would sponsor 300 out of the estimated 397 who are supposed to appear at the Asian Games.
But the Board seems to be rethinking. It has been learnt that it is now contemplating backing 277 or 280 members of the national contingent for the quadrennial spectacle which will be held in the Indonesian cities of Jakarta and Palembang from August 18 to September 2.
The power tussle between the PSB and Pakistan Olympic Association (POA), which had started a few years ago, has not ended yet. This will hurt none other than the national athletes who have devoted their whole lives to their respective games.
Pakistan needs a man like former PSB chief Brigadier Arif Sidddiqui as the country’s crumbling sports cannot afford any laxity or political approach. Arif had the guts to decide things on the spot.
Frustratingly, the national camps for the Asian Games began on June 20, which is too late. Expecting medals with such a poor preparation would not be wise.
Besides, Liaquat Gymnasium, Islamabad, is also not ready for training. My sources told me that the roof of the gymnasium, which had cost the state millions of rupees, had developed cracks. The facility is being rehabilitated and so is closed for training. Because of the issue, Pakistan’s junior and youth volleyball teams had to practice at a small hall for the Asian Junior and Asian Youth Championships. It means that the players will face more problems when they compete in the continental events. Handball and some other sports will suffer because of the gymnasium issue.
The PSB should not interfere in the affairs of the federations but it should provide finances and infrastructure so that good preparation could be made for the Asian Games
The PSB should have utilised state-of-the-art sports complex which has been constructed in Narowal. The PSB centres in Quetta, Karachi and Peshawar also should have been given some camps.
The PSB is not ready to sponsor basketball for the Asian Games. It is a big blow to the sport. Pakistan had a strong standing in Asia in this game a few decades ago. Pakistan Basketball Federation (PBBF) Secretary Khalid Bashir had been invited to the recently held meeting, but the Board said that PBBF was not affiliated with it.
The fact is that PBBF, which has been formed after several years of parallelism, has filed its case with the PSB and it is now up to the Board to dispose of the issue as quickly as possible. Basketball faced the same issue last year before Islamic Games in Baku, Azerbaijan. The PBBF had sent its team to Baku by spending from its own resources when the board refused to give funds at the eleventh hour. Interestingly, the PSB had sponsored both men’s and women’s teams for the 2016 South Asian Games in India.
The PBBF is still waiting for the PSB nod for its training camp. The federation has selected 11 boys and one coach for the camp. I have learnt that if the Board did not sponsor basketball it would be difficult for the federation to support its lot for the Asian Games because of lack of resources. Pakistan last featured in basketball in the 1990 Asian Games in China.
A few years ago the PSB had ruled that a Board official would accompany the touring teams in order to monitor their activities during the competitions abroad. And now the PSB has formed a four-member monitoring committee which will oversee the camps for the Asian Games. The committee will also meet coaches of various teams to discuss reducing the number of players in the camp. This is not a wise decision. The Board should leave this to the coaches and the federations. The PSB should not interfere in the affairs of the federations but it should provide finances and infrastructure so that good preparation could be made for the continental assignment.
The Board also needs to develop a better communication system to process requests from the federations for NOC, funds and equipment. It would save precious time both of the federations and of PSB. It continues to follow the age-old method of hard copies. An Indian court has recently declared notices sent through whatsapp valid because it lets people know when the message was sent and when it was received.
The POA also needs to decide who will represent Pakistan in judo and cycling at the Asian Games. It has strained relations with both these federations because of some legal matters and has said that its executive committee would decide whether the players in these disciplines would represent Pakistan in the Asiad. If the POA keeps it secret until the end it will certainly affect preparations of the athletes in these disciplines, particularly of Japan-based Olympian judoka Shah Hussain who deserves to be informed in advance that he is being sent to Indonesia for the Games.