In Pakistan, talent does not necessarily get you as far as you would think – especially if you are, quite literally, a ‘good sport’. Let’s look at sportsmen and athletes? Who can assure them that their raw talent will be acknowledged, let alone supported, by the state?
Let’s take cricket, for instance. Pakistan has given birth to historical bowlers – and continues to do so. However, the lack of support and training of these young men results in an utter loss of their talent. We complain about our players not performing internationally. Let us ask the state what it has done to ensure that these men receive training that is at par with international standards. When was the last time we produced a top-class batsman? What has the state done to rehabilitate wayward players? With one controversy after the other, it seems politics takes precedence over sport.
Regardless of all this, it was encouraging to see the formation of the Pakistan Super League (PSL). After years of negligence, the PCB has taken the right step towards bringing young talent to the forefront and grooming them in a way that not only strengthens their endeavour, but also makes them better professionals. This culture will most definitely bring about positive change. Talented young players now have a platform to strive towards and in doing so, have the chance to get noticed.
But does anyone remember bodybuilding as a sport for Pakistan? When was the last time we heard of a Pakistani bodybuilder being sponsored by the state to represent Pakistan on an international forum? Does the fact that they possess the will but lack the resources give us the right to neglect their talent and just let them continue to struggle?
Recently, a 25-year-old bodybuilder named Salman Ahmad made us proud by becoming the first Pakistani to win the ‘Musclemania World Bodybuilding Title’ in Las Vegas. Looked at from another viewpoint, the young man made history by becoming the first Pakistani to attain such a title overseas. Again, what did the state do for him? Did the state sponsor him to compete? Other than flashing his victory over the news, did the state do anything else to facilitate his cause?
There are plenty of us who can afford the ‘good life’ and make sure we go to the best gyms in town. However, there are also people like Salman Ahmad who struggled and, despite his odds, achieved what no one else did in Pakistan. There are others, just like Salman, who also dream of representing Pakistan at similar competitions, but lack the support of their own state. You may provide bodybuilders with a local platform, such as the opportunity to become the best in your own city (Mr Islamabad, for instance), but a sport isn’t a sport until you compete with the best around the world and then prove your worth.
It is also imperative to note that field hockey, Pakistan’s national sport, also disappoints internationally. The last time Pakistan brought home the trophy was back in 1994. What’s worse is that Pakistan has not even made it to the runner-up position since then. Are we lacking talent, or is the country not providing sufficient training to our four-time world champions? Again, food for thought.
Perhaps it is time to question whether sports is genuinely on the agenda for the coming years. From the looks of it, Pakistani men and women are losing out on precious years of their prime in the hope that their country will acknowledge their worth. In reality, very few get the opportunity to shine and make this country proud. Some have to do it themselves, while others just never get the change. Some have resources, while the majority just have themselves and their talent.
Very often we refer to Imran Khan and Jansher Khan as Pakistan’s heroes in the sports world. What happened after that? I don’t see any other country putting an end to talent. On the contrary, other big names seem to crop up every year in any given sport. It’s time for the Pakistan Sports Board to reassess its mission statement and put Pakistani talent back on the map. We can argue about security reasons for bringing international players to Pakistan. What’s the excuse for not taking Pakistani players abroad?
The writer is a lawyer.