Sportspersons in Pakistan are treated harshly. The other day I was shocked when I was told by insiders of the national wrestling camp in operation in Lahore that the grapplers preparing for the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games are battling against heavy load-shedding and mosquitoes due to lack of basic facilities at the hostel of the PSB Coaching Centre where they are staying. The hostel has no generator or UPS. The weather is extremely hot in Punjab capital. The wrestlers are unable to sleep at night because of frequent power outages.
I also reported the issue in ‘The News’ the other day which also carried quotes of a top official. It added to my pain when I heard the official telling me that it was not only the condition of that hostel but all other hostels of the PSB Coaching Centres. I agree with him.
He also said that he had advised Pakistan Wrestling Federation (PWF) to hold its camp in Islamabad’s Pakistan Sports Complex which has better facilities. He also said that he had written to Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) three months ago about the issue but no response had been received due to budget issue.
I called the PSB Director General Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera the other day and he assured me that he would soon manage a generator for the hostel so that the wrestlers could properly take rest after hectic training in the day. Let’s see what the PSB boss does. He should act promptly as it is a serious issue and players are preparing for a tough assignment.
Moreover, in a single room, 12 wrestlers are staying. If we believe the top official who said that eight beds had been given to the wrestlers in each room powered by air-conditioners and air-coolers, I still think it is not fair treatment. There should not be more than four players in a room. And, particularly, those wrestlers who are medal winners in international circuit deserve much better treatment.
It is pertinent to mention here that Pakistan will be fielding a 42-member wrestling contingent in the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games which are slated to be held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, from September 17-27.
The wrestlers will flex their muscles in freestyle, Greco-Roman and belt wrestling competitions.
A few days ago some wrestlers got ill after drinking contaminated water which had been provided to the hostel through two tankers. A wrestler also had to spend two days in a hospital due to digestive issues. We have seen that national athletes face such issues during camps. I am writing this piece because I want to awaken the relevant authorities so that they bring improvement in these areas.
My purpose is not to criticise any body or hurt anyone but I want fair treatment with the athletes who are our most precious assets. They hoist the flag of the country on foreign soil and act as ambassadors and so deserve due respect.
How could one expect a player to win medals if he passes through such agony during his training camp! Not only the centre’s administration is responsible for the mess but PWF also seems to be a culprit. It is also the responsibility of the federations to fight for their athletes.
I have heard that Pakistani wrestlers had to spend a few nights on the floor in India during the South Asian Games held early last year. Total non-sense! We, the whole sports community, earn because of these athletes. They should be respected. When any athlete speaks to media about such issues he or she then faces trials because the officials always try to conceal their faults. Instead of rebuking the athletes, the relevant officials should correct themselves.
The PSB Coaching Centres in Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar also have several issues. The centres lack basic facilities which make them unfit for hosting athletes during camps or national championships.
When you enter the dining hall of the Karachi’s PSB Coaching Centre, you feel a foul smell. It makes the hall repulsive for the visitors. At Karachi’s centre, the boxing hall is in a poor condition. There is no specific hall for martial arts athletes and they are compelled to train in the hall which is used mostly for badminton.
In 2013 National Games, the lavatory system of Pakistan Sports Complex Islamabad was in the worst condition and the athletes faced issues. Most of the toilets were clogged and washrooms were found filled with water, showing a nauseating picture. It is also against the international sports laws.
Provision of accommodation and balanced diet to the athletes during their training and competition period is the most important factor and should be properly taken care of. Even if one area of the two is ignored, the athletes will suffer.
It is a fact that national federations in Pakistan cannot afford to board their athletes in proper hotels during training camps. Mostly it is the responsibility of the PSB to provide them accommodation and food. No doubt, in Islamabad, the PSB hostels are in good shape but every camp cannot be set up in the federal capital. Under the 18th Amendment, the PSB Coaching Centres in all the four provinces will stay with the PSB. So keeping in view the issues which I discussed here the Board should make a plan to upgrade the hostels of its centres in all the federating units, making them more commodious. It should also enhance the other infrastructure at these centres so that the athletes could properly train for international assignments.
The federal minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) Riaz Pirzada should also take notice of the issues which are affecting training of the athletes.