Pakistan’s netball players eye World Cup glory

Published December 2, 2021
PAKISTAN Army players pose with the trophy after winning the National Inter-Departmental Netball Championship on Wednesday.
PAKISTAN Army players pose with the trophy after winning the National Inter-Departmental Netball Championship on Wednesday.

KARACHI: The sound of every move by Pakistan’s top netball players echoes at the indoor court here at the Pakistan Sports Board Coaching Centre.

It’s the final of the National Inter-department Netball Championship but it’s being played by men.

Netball — a no-contact version of basketball — is largely a women’s game.

Pakistan, though, has one of the leading men’s netball teams in Asia. In 2017, the team narrowly lost to India in the final of the Asian Championship.

And its players are yearning for a chance to play at the World Cup.The inaugural edition of the Men’s and Mixed Netball World Cup was due to be held in October 2020 in Australia but had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The next edition is slated to be held in 2023 with Australia — where men’s netball is very popular — due to host it again.

“We’ve shown at the Asian Championship that our team is really good,” Pakistan captain Mohammad Akhtar told Dawn on Wednesday after his Pakistan Air Force side lost the final.

“After this championship we have our national team camp [in February] where we will begin training for the World Cup. With our past performances, we are confident and will try our best to win it.”

Netball isn’t played at the Olympics but the women’s tournament features at the Commonwealth Games.

The Pakistan Netball Federation has started an elite netball development programme to raise the standard of its women’s team but it’s the men’s team which is making waves.

“The three-day inter-department event is to help nurture top men’s talent in the country”, PNF president Mudassar Arain told Dawn.

And it’s been very competitive too. Reigning champions Army were stunned by PAF in their opening match of the tournament.

But they reigned supreme at the end, avenging that defeat with a 34-23 victory in the final.

“We were not ready in our first game but in the final we made sure we didn’t repeat the same mistakes,” Pakistan Army captain Rana Zahid told Dawn.

Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2021

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