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Time to wake up

The PBF should manage some sponsors and hold camps at home besides arranging foreign tour for the top boxers so that Pakistan could go into the Olympic qualifiers with some hope

Time to wake up

The economic crunch being faced by Pakistan has also affected the careers of national athletes. Sports is no longer a federal subject and this has affected state funding to sports federations. The federations are unable to convince corporate sector to fund athletes.

A well-placed source told me that one of the biggest multi-national companies sponsoring a number of athletes of Pakistan has faced a major decline in its earnings. The source said that this company is about to withdraw its sponsorship to some athletes. The federal government’s sports strategy and the general economic collapse of the country have also badly affected national boxers.

During an interaction with some of Pakistan’s leading boxers it was learnt that the increase of dollar rate has also affected their diet and preparations they are making on their own. Since featuring in Asian Games in Indonesia last year, our pugilists haven’t been in any training camp.

Pakistan fielded some ordinary boxers in this year’s Asian Championship and Thailand Open. The basic reason was that the county’s boxing governing body (PBF) had nothing in its exchequer due to lack of state funding.

Mostly Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Boxing Association ensured Pakistan’s presence in the above mentioned events by fielding their boxers. The leading boxers of the country are not happy. They say that they require exposure for coming national duty. Yes, Pakistan’s frontline boxers definitely have a tough task ahead in the shape of 2020 Olympics qualifiers.

Suspending the world boxing governing body (AIBA), International Olympic Committee (IOC) has formed a task force to conduct boxing qualifiers from January 2020 to May 2020 and the boxing event in Olympics.

The IOC, the other day, told me that the task force is working hard. “As you very well know, the work of the ad-hoc Boxing Task Force is underway and the IOC will communicate on the progress of the preparations in due course,” the IOC told me.

IOC member Morinari Watanabe, who is also the president of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), chairs the five-member task force.

Men will compete in eight weights while women will show their worth in five weight categories in 2020 Olympics. Women have been given a raise of 25 percent as in 2016 Rio Olympics women competed in three weight categories.

Pakistan last featured in Olympics boxing in 2004 Athens Games. Not getting even one international event in an entire year is tantamount to killing the boxers’ careers. It is the responsibility of the PBF to revive the sport which has completely lost its gloss in the country.

It is not that our boxing has lost all the vitality. The federation should not feel that in the two tenures of former PBF chief Doda Bhutto boxing was destroyed.

PBF should rather analyse its own performance during the last two and a half years and then decide what it should do. We should not feel that our boxers cannot qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. We should pick the best, work on them for at least six months and you will see our fighters will fight hard in the qualifiers.

The PBF president Khalid Mehmood is not an ordinary person. He is the secretary of Pakistan Olympic Association (POA). Despite that, PBF remains unable to bring Pakistan’s boxing out of the deep quagmire.

Boxing has been Pakistan’s most impressive sport and we have had massive achievements in the sector for decades, particularly in Asia. We even got an Olympics bronze in boxing through Hussain Shah in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

It is now clear that the federal government will no longer give annual grants to federations. If we know this why then should we wait for funding by the government?

The PBF should immediately start working seriously for boxing development. It should manage some sponsors and hold camps at home besides arranging foreign tour for the top few boxers in the next few months so that we could at least go into the Olympics qualifiers with some hope. If boxers are fielded in the qualifiers without any solid preparation then it will be of no value.

The other day Khalid told me that the PBF would be trying to field two or three top boxers in the Olympic qualifiers.

He also said that effort would be made to manage a foreign tour for the fighters ahead of the qualifiers. I think fielding two or three boxers in the qualifiers would not serve the purpose. We have some solid fighters in most of the weight categories but we should prepare them rightly. We should field a full-fledged boxing contingent in the Olympics qualifiers.

Khalid also said that by 2020 the situation would become clear about how much the federal government would back sports.

He added that the PBF also plans to launch its professional league which will be played under AIBA rules.

A lot of time has been wasted. There is need for practical steps. The PBF must wake up and start working for revival of the sport which has still a huge talent. Khalid, as PBF chief, should keep contact with the boxing clubs and boxing stakeholders in Karachi and Balochistan which have been contributing hugely to boxing development.

Most of the talent comes from these two areas. We should focus on them. It would be much better if Khalid got PBF secretary either from Sindh or Balochistan.

Alam Zeb Safi

Alam Zeb copy
The writer is a sports reporter at The News International. He may be reached at [email protected]

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