The leading athletes of some strong nations headed for foreign training directly from Baku after featuring in the Islamic Games as part of their long-term plan for future mega international assignments, particularly the 2020 Olympics.
But Pakistani athletes came back not knowing what they will do in future. Because of poor financial status of the national federations, Pakistani players always expect the government to support them. But what the government gives them is too little. It enables them only to make short trips for the target events. And it is hard to provide them training on foreign soil.
The Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) has hefty funds for holding useless events like Inter-Provincial Games but it does not have money for backing some of the brightest sportsmen in their Olympic bid.
Pakistan used to rely on the hockey team for a medal in Olympics. But now we are struggling in the same. It is important to focus on certain individual sports disciplines in which Pakistan can make a breakthrough at the Olympic level.
After discussing the issue with some top-level players and officials I am convinced that if the amount which the government plans to spend on the Inter-Provincial Games in October is spent on top athletes’ preparation and participation in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic qualifiers, some of our players will not only qualify but also win medals.
I urge the federal minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) Riaz Hussain Pirzada to take a fresh start by sending the country’s leading athletes for foreign training and ensure their full participation in every Olympic qualifying event. Although his tenure as the minister ends next year, I hope that whoever comes next will not reverse his decisions.
Pirzada can get hefty special funds from the federal government for what could be a revolutionary plan for the country’s sports.
The IPC ministry should convene a special meeting of all those federations whose athletes have potential to qualify for the 2020 Olympics.
Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) can also contribute in the cause because of its strong links with international sports bodies.
It’s not difficult. It needs just a bold step and you will see a great change. Judo, wrestling, weightlifting, boxing, athletics and shooting are the disciplines in which Pakistan can do wonders if people are rightly prepared.
We saw some of our leading players giving tough time to world champions in the Islamic Games. It shows we have players who can play in big events if properly prepared. India has started taking sports seriously and everybody sees that the nation has made a tremendous progress in several disciplines over the years.
India is sending a 40-member wrestling squad to France for the World Championship later this summer. Pakistan, on the other hand, will have to think whether it can send a couple of grappelers to the event because of lack of money.
The state has the money for unnecessary events and joy trips of its sports officials but it has no penny for grooming its best athletes for the mega events.
In the modern world sports have turned out to be an industry. Look at Qatar. It opted for hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup because it knows how important it is for its economic growth. Australia’s sports play a key role in the nation’s GDP growth. But we have no idea about these things.
We have rather destroyed our strong sports culture which made Pakistan’s presence felt in the past.
We should plan for big events like Olympics and World Championships. When you plan for that your athletes will naturally perform well in less competitive international events.
Set ambitious targets and it will benefit Pakistan’s sports in the long run.
I will specifically emphasise the issue of differences between POA and Pakistan Judo Federation (PJF). Both should resolve their differences as their conflict has hugely damaged the sport. If the issue is not resolved, it will in particular harm Japan-based Olympian judoka Shah Hussain’s Tokyo Olympics bid.
Because of the issue national judokas were not allowed to feature in the Islamic Games. The POA has also decided against including the discipline in the list of disciplines for the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games to be held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, later this summer.
A few days ago the IPC minister Pirzada told me that he would try to help resolve the issue. I hope he is able to end POA’s differences with the PJF but also with the Pakistan Cycling Federation (PCF). Otherwise, judokas and cyclists’ participation in the next year’s Commonwealth Games and Asian Games will be endangered.