WHILE the performance of the previous government is being judged in many domains, like economy, politics and diplomacy, one critical area in which it left the people a bit disappointed was the sports sector. There are two reasons for that. One, the government was headed by a sportsperson of undisputed global stature. And, two, because it was not as if the government did not do anything; it did, but, arguably, in the wrong direction.
But just like other politicians of our country, the sportsperson in the man took a back seat, and politics consumed him so much that even his decisions in the domain of sports were politicised. All the promises remained just that; promises. Nothing was done to bring about the slightest of change in the status and significance of sports in the overall scheme of things. If anything, a lot of sportspersons associated with the corporate sector lost employment owing to change in the relevant rules.
Regardless of how history views the actions taken in four-year period of the last government, the fact remains that the nation’s attitude at individual and collective levels towards sports needs to undergo a sea-change because sports work as a detox mechanism for extremist and negative elements in society; any society.
The launch platform for the young sportspersons happens to be the educa- tional institutions, which currently keep them engaged in the rat race of securing high grades in the hope of getting higher salaries.
Though the terminology for activities like sports used in the educational curriculum changed from extra-curricular activities to co-curricular activities, stipulating the enhanced importance and status of activities other than studies, the wait for sports to be included in the curriculum on practical grounds continues.
There are no regular school periods or any scheduled days per week for sports. Some elite schools hold sports day once
a year, but that is just not enough. Absolutely not. Majority of schools do not have enough space to have a designated playground.
With the emergence of private schools at every nook and cranny, the space for sports has shrunk. At the time of registration of such schools, the absence or shortage of playing space is overlooked, and nobody knows why. Nobody in the relevant authorities has ever thought of checking the provision of periods meant for sports in school timetables.
However, where space is available, the general lack of motivation in our social norms puts sports on the back burner. Sports are not deemed part of studies despite the fact that their status is denoted by the prefix ‘co’ in the term co-curricular. Playing sports is frowned upon as wastage of students’ time.
Despite the presence of physical education teachers at public-sector high schools, their services are not utilised to promote sports. They are not expected or encouraged to impart physical health education.
Sports attract media spotlight whenever a Pakistani player or athlete misses the mark by a narrow margin at some international platform and mentions lack of resources provided by the government.
The media creates a hype about the government lethargy and indifference to sports, but this hype is at best transient, and soon everything vanishes into the proverbial thin air.
Sports or physical education must be made a compulsory subject at the school level. Scrupulous monitoring is required to ensure the allocation of periods to sports on a weekly basis. The services of physical education teachers should be utilised properly. No school without a playground should be registered by the authorities till at least the applicant makes enough arrangement for indoor games.
Is it not ironic that we idealise our national-level sportspersons, but we do not want our children to spend time in playgrounds? We just want them to be on the study table or in front of some screen.
At the state level, we praise our sportsmen as world ambassadors, but practically do nothing to promote sports in the country. We should not forget that the emptier the playgrounds of a country are, the fuller its hospitals are. Only sports can channelise the energy of the youth, saving it from being dissipated.
M. Nadeem Nadir
Kot Ali Garh
Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2023