Throughout the course of history, societies have flourished by investing in human capital and development of institutions.
Driven by dynamic leaderships, the present day developed societies not only had the capacity to think and implement out-of-the-box solutions to their complex issues, but also to dwell into the details of subjects through deep research, which helped in setting the correct and implementable narratives without any gray areas.
The development of sports in these progressive societies followed the same pattern. It was only through dedicated and continuous research work and institutionalised approach that these countries attained great respect among the sporting comity of nations.
Hungary is one of those countries that despite their small size and being land-locked have attained a distinguished position in the world of sports.
Despite all odds the only thing that remains constant in Hungarian society is their love for sports and free spirit.
Dr Kozsla Tibor, Director Strategic and International Directorate of Semmelweis University (TF) Budapest, while explaining the hundred-year path of sport development in Hungary at NUST University Islamabad said: “Our elders were wise and visionary and they very well understood the value of sports for the development of society and nation at large.”
Dr Tibor said that the success or failure of any sport system depended on the vision, mission and policies of the country.
The vision, mission, objectives and policies can differ from country to country depending on their social and economic realities, but the philosophy remains universal.
Good governance, volunteerism, social inclusion, health enhancement and dual education programme are the five pillars which bolster sports in any society. Without these five pillars in place a sport system can neither flourish nor yield sustainable results.
Good governance holds a pivotal position among these. It means transparency and integrity in competitions at all levels and equal and fair sport opportunities for all participants.
The most important people in this respect are the organisers who manage and run sports affairs from top to bottom in any country. This is indeed the most neglected area of Pakistan sports. There is professional incompetence and lack of transparency and integrity.
Dr Tibor said that Hungary was able to overcome this issue by producing the right kind of qualified human resource by introducing Sport Management programmes in universities. It also introduced very strong monitoring and evaluation standards for sports bodies that helped in ensuring good governance at all tiers of sports management.
Volunteerism twigs through the philosophy of “Olympism”. Volunteers are the backbone for organising any sport event in the world. The concept that started from 1948 London Olympics is now fully matured and functional. As many as 70,000 people volunteered for the 2012 London Olympics in different roles.
In Pakistan volunteers are mustered from education institutions at the eleventh hour to fill the empty seats of stadiums or to guide the guests and produce an ordinary PT show.
Till the time sport doesn’t become an integral part of education in the country and young volunteers are not trained to understand the spirit of Olympism, volunteerism in Pakistan sports will remain a far cry.
Sports provide a common and neutral ground to all segments of society, bringing together young, middle aged and senior citizens as well as women, those who have physical disabilities and those who are part of the marginalised segments of society. Sports enable them to interact with each other freely.
Decades ago when the standard of sports in Pakistan was far better than today, all segments of society contributed significantly to the growth of sports. There were people from the Christian community as well as people who lived in slums. If Pakistan sports have to grow beyond cricket, it is mandatory that sports be organised at the grassroots level through education institutions and community-based sports clubs where minorities and marginalised segments get equal opportunity to show their talent.
Through organised sports, physical and mental health of an entire nation can be improved. In many countries health policies are now focused on creating a healthy lifestyle, which ultimately helps cut down health budgets. Communicable diseases are now best combated through well-thought sports programmes.
In Pakistan, a number of communicable diseases are at rise due to poor general heath of masses. People are overworked and under-nourished. Even the educated class lacks heath awareness and pays little attention to their own health and health of their wards. Last but not the least is dual education program for sportspersons.
In most European countries the high performing athletes are reasonably educated so that they can either join some job or run their business on professional lines and don’t become a liability on society after retiring from active professional sports.
In our case the situation is entirely opposite. The sportspersons in Pakistan pay little attention to their education. They say they have to give more time to sports. This is a complete fallacy as most of the athletes from the US and Europe are from Universities. Hungary has so far won 486 Olympic medals. Out of these, 168 are gold medals. Out of these, 90 were won by the graduates of Budapest (TF) University.
Those who have acquired the level of excellence to compete in international competitive sports choose to pursue their careers in sports, while the rest seek excellence in other professions, but sports remain part of their routine life.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has very rightly launched his education reform scheme for the federal government education institutions in Islamabad.
As per the Prime Minister, the focus is not only at the renovation of school and college buildings but also on the syllabus taught in these institutions.
It is time “Sports Literacy” was introduced in our schools and colleges in the federal area as there are sufficient sports facilities which remain underutilised because of the absence of trained physical education teachers.
I am quite optimistic that the introduction of physical literacy concept will lay the foundation of sports culture in education institutions on which these five pillars can be erected in the country.