It is always inspiring when we look back to the illustrious days of Pakistan’s badminton. The nation has a rich history in badminton. In 1970s particularly, we had some world beaters in the sport. Those related to Pakistan’s badminton know about the country’s great player Tariq Wadood who was the World No 2 shuttler in 1978. In 1982, Zubair Ahmed from Bahawalpur won the French Open.
As a team Pakistan’s best performances were in 1974 Tehran Asian Games when the country beat badminton giants Korea 3-1 and Japan 3-0, an achievement which the nation is still proud of.
The decline started in 1980 and continues till date.
Those who want to know the current status of Pakistani players should check the results of the 18th Asian Games held in Indonesia last year where the national shuttlers, both men and women, were among the poorest performers.
India has risen very high in the sport. Even shuttlers from the Maldives and Sri Lanka have better rankings than Pakistanis.
Sri Lanka’s Niluka Karunaratne is ranked 99th, while Shaheed Hussein of the Maldives is at the 199th spot. Pakistan’s Hafiz Irfan stands at 430th spot and Anjum Bashir trails at 441st place.
In women category, Pakistan’s Mahoor Shehzad stands at 199th, Sehra Akram at 393rd and Palwasha Bashir at 529th.
The club culture has experienced a huge decline. There is need for a strong league, quality coaching, huge investment, revival of the sport in educational institutions and above all a fair handler is direly needed as president of Pakistan Badminton Federation (PBF).
Ask international badminton coach Raziuddin Ahmed and he will tell you about the reasons behind the downfall of Pakistan’s badminton.
“We had extraordinary players like Tariq Wadood but now it’s not easy to produce players of his stature. We don’t have a proper system for grooming our budding shuttlers. Sincere coaches are not encouraged here,” Razi told ‘The News on Sunday’ (TNS) in an interview.
“In our recently held national championship in Lahore Pakistan’s top player Hafiz Irfan got injured in the team event. This enabled eighth seed Ali Mehdi of WAPDA to make it to the final where he shocked Murad Ali of National Bank of Pakistan (NBP), a much better player and defending champion. This happened because Murad, who had fever, did not know much about Ali as he had never been in the top four before. Aon Abbas’ entry in the semi-finals needs to be appreciated,” Razi said.
“In 2018 Asian Games our top players lost their openers in nine to 11 minutes which is really a humiliating performance. Rarely does anybody from Pakistan manage ten points. It’s a club level performance,” Razi pointed out.
“The issue with our players is that they don’t want to learn badminton. They are the most indisciplined. I have seen them eating ordinary food at 2:30am at night during national events. Last year during an event in Charsadda I saw shuttlers, both boys and girls, dancing in the hostel. But I will not blame only the shuttlers for this indiscipline as it is the responsibility of the managers and the coaches to keep them disciplines during a domestic event or a training camp as playing for a department, a region or a nation is not a joke,” Razi said.
“Tariq was my club-mate in Chaklala. I have never seen a player as hard-working as he was. Tariq represented United Bank Limited (UBL). His captain Zubair Ahmed was more disciplined. He never allowed his players to move here and there before and after the match. UBL team used to come to the court on time and rush to hotel immediately after the match. Zubair would discuss with his players the match they played and used to plan for the next game.
“I saw Zubair taking some tough decisions which is a must if you want to develop a team,” Razi said.
“Nutrition is one of the most important factors in a player’s build-up. It’s unfortunate that our shuttlers and players of other sports don’t know much about what food they need before and after the match. Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) does not have a proper nutritionist. The PSB provides poison to players instead of food. Would you believe that our players, who are to compete at international level, are fed packed milk from little-known companies, open-sourced oil in curries, and rotten poultry,” Razi claimed.
“When Malaysian coach Arvind was conducting training sessions the food the PSB was serving to the players was awful. They had stinky broiler chicken cooked in open ghee or oil, rotten salad, white rice, and fruit. This was perhaps the most horrible combination of food choices I have ever seen in my life, having visited more than 20 countries in the world. Nobody tells them that brown rice, instead of white rice, should be consumed in controlled proportion for better results since it contains manganese, selenium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin B3 and improves the metabolism of an athlete, helps heart function, improve vision, and prevents breathing and fatigue problems. Fruit consumption after a meal may cause serious digestion issues. Fruit should be eaten an hour before the meal or two hours after it.
“I didn’t see anyone telling them either that consuming iron supplements is of no use unless you back it up with adequate amount of vitamin C. Otherwise iron shall not become a part of your system,” he said.
“They have even no idea about pre-competition meal, meal during training, competition, post-competition and during workouts. Nobody tells them that a pre-competition meal is important to maximise glycogen which fuels the body during competition. The meal should be consumed two to four hours prior to a competition to allow enough time for food to be digested. Ideally, the meal should consist of a rich source of carbohydrates, it should not have much fat so that it could be easily digested. This way the athletes don’t have any stomach discomfort. I have heard that a young dynamic nutritionist visited PSB last year and was promised a role with PHF and PSB but it did not work as the mafia did not allow him to stay and he gave up,” he said.
“Badminton and other sports in schools have ceased to exist. In Punjab’s eight education boards, there are 53,000 government schools. Only 1.2 percent of them take part in annual school sports. It’s alarming,” Razi said.
“The badminton equipment is too expensive and it is not easy for shuttlers to meet huge expenses unless the government and the federation support them. Even the top players don’t have sponsors. In order to improve their international rankings the shuttlers are compelled to feature in international events through their own resources,” he said.
“Lack of proper coaching and training system at all levels is also a big impediment. There is no training infrastructure with the PSB or the federation. Sometimes the available equipment is not used. A VO2 max, also known as maximal oxygen uptake, is the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen a person can utilise during intense exercise. A machine worth Rs20 million was purchased by the PSB two years ago but it has never been used. The way badminton is being handled it is not possible to produce shuttlers like Tariq,” Razi said.