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Misplaced priorities

Only a few former players run federations. Majority of our federations have no athlete even in their sub-ordinate set-up. And some sports governing bodies carry players but they are not given any role which could benefit the sport.

Misplaced priorities

When Pakistan’s leading judoka Shah Hussain fell at the first hurdle in Rio Olympics, many expressed the view that the government spent a lot on him but the athlete exited from the competitions within no time.

I would like to tell such people that each medal costs United Kingdom £5.5 million. If Pakistan is to progress in sports, it will have to spend such amounts.

We should not expect our athletes to bring medals home until we put a solid system in place at home.

Iran’s president picks up the phone and rings to a sponsor to seek support for his volleyball team but ours is a horrible story. We don’t find any such precedent in Pakistan.

I was shocked to listen to our senior federal minister, praising his own political party while addressing the closing ceremony of the 1st Quaid-e-Azam Inter-Provincial Games in Islamabad. Instead of lauding his party, he should have talked about sports and what the government was doing for its promotion. We even use our sports venues for political gatherings which is prohibited in international sports laws.

How can we grow? Some of our sports officials travel in business class while athletes travel in economy class through connected flights with long stop-overs. When they reach their destination after a tiresome journey, they are not fit for competing immediately due to high fatigue. Is this the way we run our sports?

In Pakistan camps start for international events when the competitions are very close. And when athletes falter in these events, the responsible officials start lamenting. It’s ridiculous!

The Asian Games 2018 are just around the corner for other countries as they have started their preparation but in our views they are very far away as we have not yet begun our camps. A federation wanted to set up its camp for the next year’s Asian Games, but it was told by the leading sports governing body, the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB), that it could not help it as camps would be held some time next year.

Our cricket chiefs, whom we consider more sophisticated and knowledgeable than others, plan a national T20, form all eight teams through a draft system, invite players from foreign leagues and suddenly announce that the event has been postponed and it would now be held in November.

We are unable to even properly plan for organising National Games. We don’t honour our coaches who play a major role in enabling the athletes to grab medals in international circuit.

We have several issues but it is poor governance which has stifled the growth of our sports.

Our sports governing bodies lack good governance. They work haphazardly, which leads them nowhere.

Good governance is the framework and culture within which a sports governing body sets policy, formulates its strategic objectives, engages with stakeholders, monitors performance, evaluates and manages risk and reports to its constituents on its activities and progress, including the delivery of effective, sustainable and proportionate sports policy and regulations.

Are our sports governing bodies really doing their work in this way?

We have left our sports to be run by politicians, businessmen, agriculturalists, journalists, Army and police officials. It would be useless to expect anything from them for the progress of sports.

Only a few former players run federations. Majority of our federations have no athlete even in their sub-ordinate set-up. And some sports governing bodies carry players but they are not given any role which could benefit the sport.

Here everyone at the top tries to prevent his or her subordinates from taking centre stage in the execution of policies. And this is the biggest negative.

In the 1990s, Pakistan had world titles in squash, cricket, snooker and hockey but we have lost that prestige because of no proper planning.

Sports have become very scientific. They need top-level planning and huge investment.

If we kept going like this we would not be able to compete even at the South Asian level. Pakistani athletes kept struggling in the last South Asian Games in India early last year.

It’s time we set our priorities right. A proper system should be made which could tackle all issues impeding Pakistan’s sports growth.

The role of the government will be of great importance. Instead of obliging its cronies, the government will have to pick the right persons for the right jobs in the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) which is full of unprofessional people.

Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) and federations will also have to change their attitude. They will have to take innovative and bold steps to bring improvement.

The provinces also need highly professional set-ups for streamlining their sports. The sports ministers should be technocrats who could make solid policies and invest in the right areas.

It was expected that under the 18th amendment, the sports of the provinces would grow rapidly due to huge inflow of budget but it did not happen and the situation in the federating units is extremely bad.

It’s time to think differently. National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has constituted a committee to prevent corruption in sports, particularly in the PSB. It held its meeting at its headquarters in Islamabad the other day. After taking input from its members belonging to various sports, the committee will frame its ToRs. The meeting mostly discussed sports development. But I hope the committee in its future meetings will definitely set its goals to ensure proper utilisation of sports funds in the PSB and other areas. In the past too, NAB dealt with some sports cases but they were buried without any result.

Alam Zeb Safi

Alam Zeb copy
The writer is a sports reporter at The News International. He may be reached at [email protected]

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