LAHORE: Provincial Sports Minister Punjab Rai Taimur Khan Bhatti says the sports activities, which are currently suspended in the country due to Covid-19, may be resumed by the month of September as like all provinces, Punjab is also submitting its recommendations for the SOPs to the Federal Sports Ministry by next week.

“All the provincial sports departments had a video conference with the Federal Sports Minister Dr. Fehmida Mirza last Monday in which it has been decided that all the provinces will submit their recommendations to the federal minister in one-week to prepare the SOPs for the resumption of sports activities,” Taimur said.

“We are in consultation with the home and health departments in preparing the SOPs and soon it will be submitted to the federal government and hopefully in September the sports activities will also be resumed in the country and in Punjab as well,” he said. “In the first phase, sports where less interaction is possible will be resumed.”

Sports School venture to scout new talent at grass roots level

But when asked if the government was also in negotiation with the provincial sports associations to prepare the SOPs the minister said they could also be taken on board.

He said due to Covid-19 the sports activities were completely at a standstill but soon after the resumption, the Punjab Sports Department would launch a good number of programs including introducing first provincial sports policy as well as a grand function to honour 150 top players from Punjab who earned medals at international level.

When reminded that preparing the best athlete for international events now has become the responsibility of the provinces after the 18th amendment, and what exactly Punjab is doing in this regard, the minister said: “We have got the permission of setting up Sports School, which will be the first of its kind in Pakistan. In this venture, talented players from schools will not only get coaching in different sports but they will also continue their curriculum activities with best available facilities,” he said.

“We have also selected some individual sports in which Pakistan has the chances to earn medals at the international level like wrestling, weightlifting, boxing and snooker under the priorities programme to promote these games at the maximum level,” he disclosed.

But when asked that team sports like baseball and volleyball have a good track record in earning victories at the international level, the minister said he was ready to allocate at least one ground in Lahore to the Pakistan Federation Baseball while a summary has been sent to the Chief Minister for the promotion of volleyball activities in the province.

It may be mentioned that Pakistan stands at the 5th place in baseball in Asia but it does not have a single stadium to itself in the country.

Asked if the province would readopt the successful programme of talent hunting at grassroots level by resuming the Under-14 event for boys and Under-16 for girls in all sports from tehsil to Punjab level, he said it could also be considered as part of Sports School venture.

It may be mentioned here that 15 years back, sports events at this level were held annually from tehsil to national level. The medal winners at the national level also earned monthly stipends as the system had produced a good number of players who later earned laurels for the country at the international level.

However, for the last many years the provincial governments and the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) have shut down this system as the provincial and local governments are now showing more interest in sports festivals.

Meanwhile, the minister said another project to promote sports culture in the province was being initiated at the name of Green Sports.

“We have identified 1100 places in village where Land and Auqaf Departments will provide a piece of land of around two ‘qillas’ to develop a playground without using any brick. The playgrounds will be covered by planting trees around it and canal water would also be used to keep the area green.

“This project is also being monitored by Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan who wants such playgrounds which should be accessible to one and all and should meet the necessary requirements to provide recreation to everyone.

“In the first phase 100 playgrounds are being prepared this year,” he said. The minister said his ministry would soon start negotiation with the education minister to ensure two sports periods in one week are included at the school level to promote sports.

He said sports infrastructure in 24 tehsil were being built in the first phase out of a total of 61 tehsils.

When reminded that in the past elaborate sports infrastructure was built but all was destroyed because the government of Punjab could not approve the summary to recruit the staff for those projects to run the affairs, the minister said such a mistake would not be repeated again.

Rai Taimur further said the revival of Punjab Games after 12 years and holding Kabbadi World Cup in Lahore were the significant achievements of his department.

Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2020

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