Recently, a Pakistani bagged the honour of winning the over 100 kilogram title in Arnold Classic Bodybuilding Championship. Atif Anwer was presented with the accolade by none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger himself.
The news received extensive media coverage and served as a ray of hope for Pakistan, where sports is generally deprived of government sponsorship.
Inevitably, it leads us to the question, how long will our talent have to keep sponsoring themselves?
All over the world, sports is given the same importance as any other professional and educational department. The governments and sports boards not only allocate grants for sports, but also arrange professional trainers for coaching the talented athletes.
They also make sure that these individuals participate in competitions the world over, by sponsoring them.
There is no shortage of talent in Pakistan. The country has produced stars which have excelled not only in cricket, hockey, and squash but also in tennis, boxing, football, athletics, snooker, and now bodybuilding.
|Atif Anwer. —Photo courtesy of Atif Anwer's Facebook page|
Several of them have made it to the international arena on their own expenses. At the same time, there have been several underprivileged ones, who couldn’t afford to showcase their skills and were thus forgotten.
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At the time when Pakistani sportsmen performed brilliantly in multiple arenas, Pakistan’s international image was a lot better than what it is today. Teams and players from all over the world would fly into Pakistan, while Pakistani players were invited to other countries.
To compound the bad luck of having international players backing away from coming to Pakistan due to terror threats, our authorities did the opposite of what should have been done in such a scenario. They paid no attention to promoting sports on the national level.
Pakistan was as good as out of the last Olympic Games. Who is responsible for that?
On the other hand, we have the example of neighbouring country India, which has revolutionised the way cricket is played by introducing IPL. And now, a local game, Kabaddi, is being promoted through the World Kabaddi League there.
While here we heard rumours making rounds over the selection of our national cricket team during the World Cup, the appointment of chairman PCB, and on not playing Sarfraz Ahmed; resulting in countless questions over the credibility of our sports organisations.
Rumours of personal favours and nepotism in the Pakistan Sports Boards and other sports boards have become a common norm too, but nobody even deigns to respond them.
When even cricket, the most cherished game of the country, becomes as shady as it has, one does not have any hope for other sports which are less popular, and hence attract lesser resources.
|Atif Anwer receives his medal from Arnold Schwarzenegger. —Photo courtesy of Atif Anwer's Facebook page|
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Sports are an integral part of any healthy society because they provide an avenue to compete in a healthy way. That is the reason other nations spend resources superfluously for sports promotion.
Such initiatives are scarce in Pakistan. Meagre quotas of sports scholarships in colleges and universities won’t do any more.
Authorities must explore more avenues for the promotion of sports and groom talent not only in cricket but in all other sports.
While it may appear that our sportsmen need the state's help, it is actually the other way round. The state needs their help in projecting a better image of Pakistan.
We need leaders who understand that.
Translated by Bilal Karim Mughal from the original in Urdu here.