WHEN it comes to sports, people of our great nation are very passionate! They are once again hoping for some laurels to come by as the medals race in the ongoing 13th South Asian Games 2019, being held in Nepal, is likely to intensify this week as all SAARC nations (except Afghanistan) are competing for the honours.
Pakistan have sent a large contingent of more than 300 athletes who will feature in 18 disciplines at the Games. However, Pakistan is likely to face a stiff challenge from the participating countries including India and host Nepal due to its home advantage.
The national athletes’ hopes of winning gold medals for the country and putting Pakistan at the victory stand appear to be quite distant as the preparations for the games have not been up to the mark due of lack of resources, infrastructure and proper training camps.
One wonders about the reasons as to why medals and laurels have eluded country in recent years since there is no dearth of talent. Pakistan in the past have not only produced world beaters in many sports but have held leading positions in international events I sports such as hockey, snooker, wrestling, kabbadi, martial arts, etc.
Just recently, wrestler Inam Butt won the gold medals twice for Pakistan in mega events abroad!
So is it the lack of efforts from the players, lack of availability of proper facilities and infrastructure, inadequate role of sports federations or the lack of support from the government that has affected Pakistan’s graph in the past decade and a half?
In Pakistan, sports are being run, managed and developed by two separate institutions; (a) Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) and (b) Pakistan Sports Board (PSB). And the roles of both the institutions are quite different.
The Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) was established under the Ministry of Education through the Sports (Development and Control) Ordinance in 1962 as a corporate body for the purposes of promoting and developing uniform standards of competition in Pakistan which could be comparable to the standards prevailing internationally. The PSB needed to regulate and control sports in Pakistan at the national level.
PSB also was responsible to provide annual grants-in-aid to the national sports federations affiliated with International bodies and the POA. It also had the mandate to organize training camps for athletes for their participation in the national and international sports events. In short, the PSB was entrusted with the complete promotion and development of sports, sports federations and players in the country.
On the other hand, the POA’s role has been to foster Olympic culture and promote Olympic values in Pakistan. In short, the POA is a commission of International Olympic Committee (IOC) to promote peace, education and culture through sports in Pakistan according to the Olympic Charter.
Unfortunately, since 2018, PSB which is responsible for the upliftment of sports and players has been unable to as much as provide annual grants to the national federations who have the responsibility to prepare and train the athletes for national and international events.
Our national sports federations are mostly dependent upon the government and corporate sector to provide grants and sponsorships in order for them to carry on with their responsibilities.
The need of the hour is that clear laws and rules must be devised so as to bring in corporate sector to become partners with national federations to bolster sports in our country.
POA holds the authority to command the multi sports games and events on national level including National Games, Inter-Provincial Games, and Beach Games etc and patronize the athletes by providing them with a platform. POA also holds the authority to send the Pakistan contingent (athletes and officials) to represent the country in Olympics, Continental, Regional and Commonwealth Games.
Recently, at the elections of Pakistan Olympic Association, Lt. Gen (R) Syed Arif Hasan was elected unopposed as President for the fifth consecutive time. Elections of POA for the term 2019-2023 were held according to its constitution and the Olympic charter and were approved by the General Council.
If we go down memory lane, Wajid Ali Shah served POA as its President for a record tenure of 26 years - from 1978-2004. Moreover, as far long tenures are concerned, there are other examples such as Pierre Baron de Coubertin who served for 29 years as IOC President from (1896-1925) and Juan Antonio Samaranch who served for 21 years, from (1980-2001).
However, some sections of the society tried to make these elections appear controversial by using social media and also gave an impression that POA is solely responsible for the poor performance of national players in the international events of late.
That is a false impression by all counts as it is the PSB and not POA which is responsible for preparing the athletes for national and international sports events. Sports Federations participating in the elections are affiliated with their respective international bodies.
We must not forget that in the past, Pakistan use to be a major force in sports. The national hockey team clinched most of the medals in Olympic history of Pakistan, winning 8 out of 10 medals including 3 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze medals.
However, the sad part is that after the 2012 London Olympics, the hockey team has failed to qualify for the Olympic Games which is such a shame really.
Besides, who can forget the reign of Professor Anwar Chaudhry when Pakistan used to be one of the major forces in boxing! His tireless efforts for the promotion of the sport are still remembered with pride.
As far as winning medals at International events is concerned, we should review the measures taken for sports worldwide — at schools, colleges, universities, districts, divisions and provincial levels. It is the responsibility of the Government to provide facilities to sports federations and the provincial associations who could then prepare and groom the players for international events.
In short, we as a nation need to analyse as to where are we really lacking. One thing is certain that the Government must resurrect the dwindling fortunes of sports by taking urgent yet far reaching measures. Unless we invest in our players, in infrastructure and in the federations by putting in financial assistance , we should not expect miracles to happen!
Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2019