The step taken by Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi to introduce tournaments at college level and ensure that an opportunity for healthy activity is provided to students is a welcome one. This is especially true in a country where young people have too few recreational opportunities available to them. The necessary funds will need to be provided and the chief minister at a meeting noted that the ACRs of the principals of colleges would also be based around their success in introducing sports. The lack of sports at college and university level has been one of the reasons for the decline of sports we see in Pakistan. Just recently we have seen the national hockey team struggle to find a way to reach the Azlan Shah hockey tournament, a necessary qualifying event for other international tournaments, including the Olympic Games. The lack of funds provided by the Pakistan Sports Board held back the team and though these funds have finally been provided with support also given for previous tournaments by the private sector, the struggle is obviously an extremely hard one.
The effort to promote college sports is also essential for setting up the regional structure that former prime minister Imran Khan wished to introduce in the country. The regional structure is a good idea, but it must be based on a strong foundation and a basis that goes beyond the departments that Imran wished to demolish, putting the livelihoods of thousands of sportsmen and women in extreme danger. Cricketers who had been dismissed by their departments had already suffered the consequences of this poorly thought-out move.
The need to promote sports is especially important for the country which clearly thrives on the excitement that these encounters offer. In Karachi’s Lyari, people have been glued to giant television screens to watch the ongoing FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The excitement shows just how much love there is for sports in the country even though Pakistan did not figure among the 32 teams taking part in the event. Though for the next World Cup, the number of teams is to be raised to 48, it is still unlikely Pakistan will qualify given the state of sports in the country, despite the enthusiasm of the young boys who roam Lyari wearing the shirts of Brazil, their favourite team, or chant slogans in favour of their favorite players. As Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi mentioned, sports could channel young people towards healthy activities and take them away from some of the risks they live with in a society which offers little except violence and despair.