After the poor performance in the 21st Commonwealth Games in Australia, Asian Games in Indonesia are the next major target of Pakistan. The Asian Games are slated to be jointly hosted by the Indonesian cities of Jakarta and Palembang from August 18 to September 2. Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) plans to hold meetings before Ramadan with the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) and those national federations which will be fielding their teams in the Asiad.
Before any deliberations on the Asian Games, the sports governing bodies plan to do some debriefing on Pakistan’s performance in the Commonwealth Games as the country’s athletes won only one gold medal and four bronze.
The PSB Director General Amir Ahmed Ali has also expressed the desire to hold such a meeting with the federations and the POA to discuss Pakistan’s performance to find out the positives and negatives and to plan for the future.
The chef de mission of Pakistan’s contingent for the Commonwealth Games Lt Gen (retd) Muzammil Hussain will give a detailed briefing to the POA in Lahore in the next few days.
But all these things are routine exercises. The real issue is to prepare the teams solidly for the Asian Games. Some federations have already asked the PSB to arrange their camps. In some disciplines, the camps are already operational.
Asian Games have always been tough for Pakistan, particularly in the modern era. Our country has not been able to progress with the speed it should have.
At the Commonwealth Games, Pakistan got medals in wrestling and weightlifting but it does not mean that medals are guaranteed in these disciplines in the Asian Games. The Asian wrestlers are as good as anywhere in the world. The region has produced a number of Olympic and world champions in wrestling.
In 86 kg freestyle wrestling in which Mohammad Inam won gold for Pakistan in Commonwealth Games, the country’s premier wrestler will have to face an Iranian wrestler in the Asian Games who is both Olympic and world champion. This shows how high the standard of wrestling in the Asian Games will be. Same is the case with weightlifting.
In the last Asian Games held in Incheon in 2014, Pakistan claimed gold in T20 women cricket, silver in men’s hockey and bronze in boxing, wushu and kabaddi.
In order to ease out the costs, cricket this time has been excluded from the Asiad, so Pakistan will pin hopes on hockey, kabaddi and wushu for medals.
Mohammad Waseem, now a professional boxer, won bronze in flyweight in the last Asian Games in Incheon but this time there is no hope of a medal in this sport in which once Pakistan had a strong standing in Asia.
Much is expected in judo from Olympian Shah Hussain who has been in top form and recently trained in Hungary. But it is yet to be known whether the entry of judo will be sent for the Asian Games as the relations between the POA and Pakistan Judo Federation (PJF) are not good.
The country’s leading karateka Saadi Abbas will be centre of attraction in the Asiad. Pakistan will be preparing for the Asian Games at a time when there will be elections coming up and there will be a caretaker government. It does not seem to be an ideal situation for the country’s sports but I hope the PSB acting director general Amir Ahmed Ali will plan well to run camps for the Asian Games effectively, irrespective of the country’s environment. It is also hoped that the PSB will fully assist federations in arranging foreign tours ahead of the Asiad. Without quality training, the results in Indonesia will be disastrous.
Pakistan Boxing Federation (PBF) is trying to manage foreign training and so is Pakistan Wrestling Federation (PWF). The wrestling federation, which has held its joint senior, junior and youth camp in Lahore, wants to send its senior squad to Georgia, Russia or some other strong wrestling nation for two months ahead of the Asian Games. Some other federations also desire to give exposure to their players.
Pakistan is expected to feature in the Asian Games in 28 or 29 disciplines but there are only a few in which the country can win medals.
The hockey team will get ample international exposure ahead of the Asiad which is the real target of the Roelant Oltmans’ brigade, but the government should focus on giving exposure to teams of those disciplines in which Pakistan has medal chances.
Pakistan Kabaddi Federation (PKF) will have to prepare its team well as a bronze medal will not be acceptable this time. Being the world’s second best side, anything less than silver will be a poor performance. The PKF has made a comprehensive programme of preparing its side for the biennial event.
Pakistan’s football team will also feature in the Asian Games. The country’s football suffered in the last three years during which it missed several international events because of litigation.
Brazilian coach Jose Antonio Nogueira on Wednesday arrived in Karachi and started his journey to shortlist players for the Asian Games.
I hope Nogueira, a former coach of Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ahli Club, will avoid the politics of the local coaches and pick the top talent for the national team from the National Challenge Cup which is in progress in Karachi.
He should also consider those foreign-based Pakistani players who are young and thus can play for Pakistan for a long time. As per the rules, Nogueira will have to field an under-23 team, with only four senior players. Pakistan is too weak in Asia but in 2006 Doha Asian Games the Green-shirts offered great resistance to Asia’s leading sides. Pakistan went 2-3 down to Japan, tasted a 0-1 defeat against North Korea and lost 0-2 to Syria. Salman Sharida of Bahrain was Pakistan’s coach at the time.