For the last few months, the sports system has ceased working. There are no activities. The postponement of the 13th South Asian Games was also a blessing for the government as it was not in a position to release money for Pakistan’s preparation and participation in the biennial spectacle. The basic reason behind all the mess is the government’s initiative to reform the sports system in order to put the country back on the road of sports development.
The task force on sports headed by the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) chairman Ehsan Mani on Wednesday briefed the Prime Minister Imran Khan on the decline of sports, its reasons and recommendations for its development.
It was decided that the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) and all boards at provincial level would be ‘restructured’. It was also decided to introduce a new administrative set-up in order to bring back the lost glory of the country in sports. Imran Khan said on the occasion that there was immense talent in sports in Pakistan but due to politics, mismanagement and lack of proper infrastructure the country had been unable to achieve the desired results.
He said that the desired results could be achieved if better infrastructure were provided to the youth. Ali Raza, who is the legal adviser of Pakistan Olympic Association (POA), is assisting Ehsan Mani in the whole working of the task force. It is not yet clear how Mani would undertake the tough task of restructuring the Board.
Mani should note that the Board has on its pay-roll inefficient and non-technical people. It is the need of the hour to bring professional people into the fold so that the Board’s working could be improved.
The Director General of the Board should be a professional. He should be given full financial and administrative powers so that he could take timely decisions according to the situation. In the past we have seen the Board’s Director General acts like a servant to the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) which is mostly full of people who don’t know anything about sports. Because of the same issue funding federations, hiring foreign coaches, managing NOCs for foreign tours and hosting international events and other important works used to get delayed. Unless the clerk culture is wiped out from the Board no positive change will be seen.
As many as 39 federations are affiliated with the Board. The purpose of the PSB should only be limited to providing grants and, free of cost infrastructure to federations and top quality nutrition facilities at the hostels during training camps. It should facilitate the federations in terms of equipment also. In the past we have seen the Board wasting its energy on holding various kinds of sports events which was not its prerogative.
The government has rightly decided to restructure the PSB and boards at the provinces. The government has also shown its intention to develop hockey and squash in which Pakistan once ruled the world. The government is also conducting forensic audit of 14 leading federations, including Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) which has been given a huge amount by the state during the last five years.
POA, which does not receive any grant from the government, had been asked by the government to share audited accounts details which the NOC has already shared, according to POA sources. Because of the reforms works Pakistan’s preparation for the Olympics qualifiers in various disciplines has immensely suffered. Besides hockey Pakistan has great chance of making a cut for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in wrestling, weightlifting, judo, athletics, shooting and karate. Pakistan’s leading karateka Saadi Abbas has already started preparation for the Olympic qualifiers. He is training with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) national team in Dubai and will begin his Olympic journey with the Paris Open later this month. He needs to feature in 14 events during the next one and a half year which may push him close to the Olympics. But he needs state support at this stage as he alone will not be able to meet his preparation and participation expenses.
Olympian judoka Shah Hussain is preparing for Olympics which will be held at his hometown Tokyo. But I have learnt that the PSB has not included judo federation in the list of those federations which will be given special grants. The step has put a question mark on the preparation and participation of Shah Hussain in the Olympic qualifiers. Last time the state had spent substantial amount on Shah which paid dividends as he qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Weightlifters Nooh Dastagir Butt and Talha Talib, who have created ripples especially at the Commonwealth level, have good chances of qualifying for Tokyo 2020.
The country’s premier wrestler Mohammad Inam and rookie grappler Inayatullah also deserve attention as far as Olympic qualifiers are concerned. The country’s top javelin thrower and 2018 Asian Games bronze medallist Arshad Nadeem is staying idle at home since winning a medal in Indonesia last year. He is a highly talented athlete and can qualify for Tokyo 2020.
Some shooters like Usman Chand have the guts to qualify for the world’s most prestigious competitions.
The government should at least release grants to those federations which have been exempted from forensic audit so that they could continue their activities. In the name of reforms the government should not stop the sports activities. Pakistan Handball Federation (PHF) will field national team in the World Beach Games qualifiers in China next summer. The government should support the game. Having a great standing in Asia Pakistan can qualify in handball for the World Beach Games to be held in the United States later this year.
Wrestler Mohammad Inam, who strongly defended his world beach championship title in Turkey last year, will also play in World Beach Games. The two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist will need support in his preparation. Along with working on reforms the government should also focus on facilitating those federations which need to field their athletes in important events.