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ISLAMABAD: President Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) Lt Gen Syed Arif Hasan on Saturday stated that there is no serious chance of the country’s sportsperson winning medals in the upcoming Asian Games and that without focusing on the grass root levels, the standards of sports in the country could not be improved.

The POA president, who was speaking at a press conference here in Islamabad on the sidelines of an opening day of two-day seminar on Sports Medicine and Protection of Athletes, said that a total 358-member contingent will participate in the Asian Games.

He revealed that Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) will finance 245 members of the contingent while the remaining 113 members competing in sports which are not affiliated with PSB including football, bridge, etc will bear their own expenses.

Arif further said that POA will extend financial support to two talented judokas to ensure their participation in the Asiad.

Gen (r) Arif said that may be in some discipline Pakistani athletes could win medals, but one-month training is insufficient to compete in a mega event such as the Asian Games. “In other countries, athletes prepare and train throughout the year for such big events and produce impressive results,” he said.

The 18th edition of Asian Games is going to be held in Indonesia from Aug 18 to Sept 2. Realistically, Pakistan only have an outside chance of winning a medal, if any. The national hockey team has not been doing well in recent months and is no medal hope but in sports such as kabbadi, athletics, wushu, weightlifting and wrestling, Pakistani players could spring a surprise and fetch a medal or two.

In last edition of Asian Games, which was held in South Korea in 2014, Pakistan won five medals. The only gold was won by the women cricket team. However, this time round, women cricket is not part of Asiad. Other medals were clinched by Pakistan hockey team, which had won a silver, while one bronze medal each was won in kabbadi, wushu and boxing.

The POA president emphasised the need to focus on sports at the grass root levels, especially in schools and colleges. “That will groom our athletes from an early age and will

When asked about multi-billion rupee sport complex in Narowal city - the home constituency of former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal who got this project approved, the POA chief said that there was no need for such a big sports infrastructure in a small city. “We need grounds and indoor halls in the country to promote sports for common people, not a massive project like Narowal one which is a wastage of resources.”

To a query regarding expectations from Imran Khan’s government in sports arena, Arif said that he since Imran himself has been an outstanding sportsman and fast bowler, he could bring change in country’s sport sector with his vision and support. He said the POA leadership will request him for a meeting to discuss the sports scenario.

“His [Imran’s] vision of a healthy society and diplomacy can easily be achieved through sports,” said Arif and added that by investing in sports sector a healthy society can be created while sportsmen could be the best diplomats. “The Foreign Office cannot do the sort of diplomacy in five years which this sports contingent can do during their stay in Asian Games,” he said.

During his press talk, the POA chief also praised for Pakistani weightlifter Nooh Dastagir Butt and lamented that despite being the world junior champion Nooh is not getting due recognition in the country.

Earlier, President POA expressed best wishes for Pakistani contingent, advising them to be very careful about their diet and medication. He directed the athletes to strictly follow guidelines of IOC, POA and anti doping agencies.

A large numbers of athletes, coaches and officials of various federations participated on the opening day of the seminar.

The Commonwealth Games’ gold medal winning wrestler Mohammad Inam Butt, who has been forced out of the Games due to a knee injury, also spoke on the occasion and termed the holding of seminar as very beneficial for athletes.

Former taekwondo player Nadia Rasool, Secretary POA Khalid Mahmood as well as PSB’s health experts also spoke on the occasion.

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2018