LAHORE: Once a giant force in the country’s sports, Pakistan Railways have resolved to revive their strength in sports and set victory stand as target at this year’s National Games being staged in Peshawar from Oct 21 to 27.

Addressing a press conference here on Thursday, general manager Shahid Aziz and vice-president of the Railways Sports Board Hamdan Nazir said that the Railways was ready to field a big contingent of around 500 male and female athletes to compete in 24 (men) and 18 (women) disciplines at the national gala.

“At the last National Games held in 2013, Railways could win only 17 gold medals. However, we are now expecting to claim [around] 30-plus gold medals to give a tough challenge to the main contenders like Army and Wapda,” Shahid said.

“Railways had remained one of Pakistan’s very strong sports institutions in the past. However, during the last two decades no recruitment on the basis of sports has been made, which caused a big decline.

“But now the Railways Sports Board is making an effort to regain the glory. For this, a number of sportspersons have been recruited recently to make it possible for us to field a contingent of 500-odd at the national gala.”

While admitting that Railways’ annual sports budget of Rs35 million was not sufficient, Shahid said it would be gradually increased.

To a question, he said a summary had been put up before the top authorities to restore the two per cent quota to hire sportspersons.

Meanwhile, Hamdan said Pakistan Railways has applied for the membership of a France-based Union Sportive Internationale Descheminots (USIC) which would “help us participate in international sports events and avoid a cumbersome procedure to get permission from national sports federations”.

When asked that the PCB had abandoned departmental cricket what measures Railways would take to save their cricketers, Hamdan said Railways intends to organise Corporate League in the country in collaboration with FBR.

“Our negotiations [in this regard] with FBR are in the final stage. If these negotiations conclude successfully, not only Railways but cricketers of other departments would also benefit,” he said.

He disclosed that Railways wished to establish a football academy with the cooperation of a Spain-based football club to train and groom new talent in the game.

To a question, Hamdan acknowledged that huge funds were needed for executing their plans but insisted that sports had now become an industry and the PRSB would approach potential sponsors to support their aims.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2019