KARACHI, March 15: It is a sad omen for youths of the city that the Young Men Christian Association (YMCA), once a hub of sporting activities is no more a place for sports which have virtually come to a halt due to internal rift and subsequent takeover by the provincial Social Welfare Department.
Established in 1905, exactly a century ago during the British colonial rule, the institution has immensely served the cause for the promotion of sports by producing a number of stalwarts on one hand, and extending sports facilities on the other.
Today, its hockey field, athletic track, basketball, badminton and tennis courts wear a deserted look where during peak time approximately 200 to 300 sportsmen and sportswomen used to train under specialized coaches.
As the YMCA already existed at the time of Pakistan’s coming into being, its staff extended wholehearted support to the organizers of first Pakistan Olympic Games held at the nearby Baghe-Quaid-i-Azam (formerly polo ground), which was inaugurated by Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in April 1948.
For years after partition, no Pakistan Day, Independence Day and the Defence Day had passed when an athletics meet, or a road race or a festival hockey match were not held at the YMCA. Its summer coaching camps for youngsters, were also a regular feature.
Former Olympians of the yore - the late Habibur Rehman, Latifur Rehman, Khurshid Aslam to name a few, remained on the panel of hockey coaches for a long time and have voluntarily groomed a large number of players.
Later, it was YMCA that organized the benefit hockey match for Habibur Rehman and Latifur Rehman during their lifetime and paid a sum of 25,000 rupees apiece to them in late eighties. The precedence was set a little earlier when the institution feted veteran Olympian the late P.P Fernandez.
Athletes like John Permal, Muhammad Talib, Abid Hussain, Arshad Saleem and Ali Kamani were among others, who used to train at the YMCA track.
The institution had another distinction as it served as a pipeline by providing goalkeepers to Pakistan hockey teams, both senior and junior, for the last quarter of a century. The list included Shahid Ali Khan, Mansoor Ahmed, Ejaz Kokhar, Aleem Alam (seniors), Khawaja Hafeez, Ali Reza and Ghafoor Jr.
YMCA will not forget the contribution of the late Muhammed Khan, Pakistan colour holder in basketball, who kept the ball moving for decades, so did Josephine Alexander in badminton and Sultan in table tennis.
Karachi YMCA is known for its sporting activities. With the closure of sports facilities, the image of the institution is tarnished. It, therefore, needs urgent reopening for players in the larger national interest.