Lack of proper planning for the Asian Games has damaged Pakistan’s preparation for the quadrennial spectacle which will be held in the Indonesian cities of Jakarta and Palembang from August 18 to September 2.
After assuring Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) that over a 300-member contingent would be sponsored by the state, the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) suddenly took a U-turn a few days ago and told the POA through a letter to ask national federations to reduce their strength by fifty per cent. The PSB says that it is because of the financial issues that the Board decided to sponsor only a 140-member contingent.
In the light of the PSB advice, the POA called a meeting of the federations last week and it was decided that no discipline would be dropped as it would lead to huge financial fines on Pakistan by the organisers and may also jeopardise the country’s participation in the event in future.
However, after dropping a few players and officials by each federation, the POA finally told the PSB to sponsor a 245-member contingent.
There is no official word from the Board about its new stance following the POA demand.
But a senior official of the POA told me on Friday (July 27) that the Board was considering sponsoring a 245-member contingent.
The Board has already received a grant of Rs211 million. Pakistan missed the deadline of July 20 for depositing the board and lodging charges with the Asian Games organisers.
The federations which are not affiliated with the NOC and PSB will have to bear their own expenses. And those whom the Board does not want to back may get the assistance of the POA.
It is expected that two days before the event a squad will proceed to Indonesia and will return one day after taking part in its respective event.
The decision to reduce the squads has created a huge problem for the federations. How can one player be dropped once he is picked in the squad? It is injustice with the dropped athletes as they have worked hard for the event.
If Pakistan fail to perform in Indonesia both the Board and POA would have justification for the failure. The PSB would say that there was a caretaker government and the Board was being operated by an acting Director General.
The POA would also criticise the Board for not supporting properly the federations and players in their preparation and participation.
And the players would say that they were not given sufficient camps and were also deprived of any foreign tour. So all would have excuses after failure in Indonesia.
Other nations make long-term plans for such competitions, but we don’t.
It is a fact that the athletes have not been given enough training. And in some disciplines that were not part of the Commonwealth Games held in Australia early this year, Pakistan held camps but those were stopped on May 15 for almost a month due to funding issues.
And on June 20, when the camps began, the federations were advised to keep their strength low so that the Board could meet the expenses. It was expected that wushu, boxing, wrestling and karate would be given foreign tours for preparations but now it does not seem that the promise would be met.
Although a Board official told me the other day that a few squads might be sent abroad for training, I don’t see any such thing as the Games are just three weeks away.
What the PSB is doing is totally unacceptable. There is a need to reform the Board which functions under the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC). Lack of grant should not be the excuse. It’s a big event and all arrangements should have been made in advance for preparing the squads effectively.
I hope the government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) will reform the Board in its tenure. The Board’s DG should be a more powerful person and he should not be merely kept as a servant of the IPC minister but as a strong administrator. Because of lack of proper administration, the Board has failed to deliver.
In the Asian Games, Pakistan is set to feature in around 36 disciplines. But there are no bright chances of claiming medals. Hockey, kabaddi, wushu and ju-jitsu are the only disciplines in which the country is expected to claim medals in the Asiad.
Wushu was unfortunately not properly backed by the PSB in training but Pakistan has claimed medals in it in the three previous Asian Games.
Wrestling faced a huge blow before the Asian Games the other day when the country’s premier wrestler Mohammad Inam opted not to feature in the continental assignment due to fitness issues.
Inam, who in April this year claimed gold in Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, received a knee injury during training.
The doctor has advised him to take complete rest for four weeks. Inam has informed Pakistan Wrestling Federation (PWF) about his decision.
Inam received this injury during the Commonwealth Games. By resting himself, Inam will return to international circuit in the World Beach Wrestling Championships.
In the previous 2014 Incheon Asian Games, Pakistan claimed gold in women cricket and bronze in hockey, boxing, wushu and kabaddi.
This time cricket has not been included in the Asiad.
There is no medal chance in boxing for Pakistan this time as the country has no star in its four-member squad.
In kabaddi, Pakistan will have to plan properly as besides India, Iran have improved a lot. They recently defeated Pakistan in a six-nation event semi-final in Dubai.
Pakistan will be looking to finish with gold in hockey as this will enable the side to directly qualify for the 2020 Olympics.