LAHORE: The consequences of the ongoing tug-of-war between the government and Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) are beginning to affect the country’s sports scene as the participation of the Pakistan hockey team in the 20th Commonwealth Games next year now appears in the doldrums.
The Games are being held in Glasgow in 2014, but the deadline to give ‘Expression of Interest’ by the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) expired on July 21 owing to the nasty tussle.
The POA led by Arif Hasan is being recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) but the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) does not recognise it. Instead, the PSB has formed a parallel body of the POA headed by Akram Sahi, which has no standing at the international level.
An official statement issued by the POA (Arif Hasan), said: “This press release is being issued to highlight the factual position regarding the participation of the Pakistan hockey team in the Commonwealth Games in 2014.
“The POA is constrained to make it public that owing to lack of ‘Expression of Interest’ by the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF), the Pakistan hockey team may not be able to participate in the 20th Commonwealth Games 2014 at Glasgow.
“After receipt of communication from the Commonwealth Games Federation that for team sports it was mandatory that the concerned federation gives an ‘Expression of Interest’ in writing, the POA had sought the commitment from the PHF in its letter dated July 18, 2013, with the deadline for the reply expiring on July 21, 2013,” the POA stated.
“After the letter was not responded to, the POA sent a reminder to the PHF on July 22, 2013. This reminder clearly stated that ‘Expression of Interest’ from the federation concerned was a ‘requirement’ of the CGF, communicated vide their email of July 17, 2013.
“The reminder also stated: ‘the consent of Pakistan Hockey Federation (Expression of Interest) was sought by a return email as we have to confirm the same to the Organising Committee of the Commonwealth Games latest by July 23, 2013 failing which the Pakistan hockey team may not be considered for participation in the 10-Team event by the FIH for these Games.’ This reminder too has remained unresponded to.
“Owing to the artificially charged environment prevailing in sports in the country, both the original letter and its reminder were also copied to the federal ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination, the PSB and other international bodies.
“The participation of Pakistan hockey in the event would have afforded it a great opportunity to build its squad for the 2016 Olympic Games by competing against some of the best outfits like Australia, England, New Zealand, Malaysia and South Africa. Actually, outside of Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, all the top ranked teams in the world take part in the event. Why the PHF deliberately wanted to stay away from the Commonwealth Games is anyone’s guess.
“The POA nevertheless is still willing to take up the case with the Commonwealth Games Federation provided the PHF submits its expression of interest by not later than Monday afternoon. The National Olympic Committee is confident that its request to the Commonwealth Games Federation can still get Pakistan included in the line-up of 10 nations at Glasgow 2014. But this is absolute final deadline as we are not sure whether the CGF will allow any further extensions.
“In case of its failure to respond, the onus for non-participation in a frontline event of almost global import shall once again lie with the PHF,” it concluded.
Meanwhile, when contacted, PHF secretary Asif Bajwa told Dawn that he had received the e-mail from the POA on July 19 and soon after he sent it to the PSB to get its advice under the current circumstances, since the board was the donor providing tickets and TA/DA to the PHF for these games.
“The PSB in reply advised the PHF to make contact with the legitimate POA body of Akram Sahi” Bajwa said. “The PHF, in response to that letter asked the PSB to ask Akram Sahi’s body to send the ‘Expression of Interest’ to the PHF, if it has received any,” Bajwa further elaborated.
“After that the PSB has forwarded the same PHF’s letter to Akram Sahi’s body to proceed further but the PHF has not received any reply,” said Bajwa.
He further went on to say that on Friday, after the media had released the news sent by the POA, he again wrote a letter to the PSB expressing the PHF wanted to appear in the Commonwealth Games and it wanted a clear reply before Monday.
The national hockey will be the main suffering party in the current situation as it has qualified for the Youth Olympics Games and the Asian Games. The participation in the Asian Games will also pave the way for participation in the 2016 Olympics.