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July 21, 2019

What ails our sports

Sports

July 21, 2019

We have no track as a sporting nation. Our system is obsolete. It does not cater to the needs of the athletes. We are unable to make out of the box decisions. Our sports stakeholders are not properly linked.

We have no vision to influence the sporting world. And the basic thing behind this is that we install people in sports authorities who don’t know much about sports. They have no mission. Our media also don’t take interest in sports other than cricket which has been rejected by the world’s greatest of athletes as no sport at all because of its limited appeal.

Because of such issues our athletes don’t know about their future. Most of them just limit themselves to their departments due to lack of opportunities and proper patronage from the sports governing bodies.

The biggest thing which our sports system misses is the link between education and sports. It’s the biggest obstacle. Unless we set up a framework which could enable us to get talent from educational institutions, sports development is not possible.

If we are to achieve our objectives and touch Olympic podium we will have to amend the rules which hamper our sports growth.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government wants to bring some changes to the system. But it has done nothing worthwhile so far. We even don’t know what our Olympics 2020 prospects are.

Even the federations are unable to share the details with the media. Our top players who can qualify for Olympics have no money or sponsors.

It is because we have not put sports on our priority list. The PTI government, led by former cricket great Imran Khan, has wasted a precious year of our athletes. He has no time for sports, even for cricket.

Pakistan met disastrous fate in the ICC World Cup in England recently. The PM installed the PCB chairman Ehsan Mani as head of the Prime Minister task force for sports.

Mani, having little time left from his cricket engagements, did not consult the best sports minds before deciding to restructure Pakistan Sports Board (PSB).

Imran and Mani may consider themselves as icons in their fields but they don’t know the environment of the Olympic sports in Pakistan.

We should not copy things from the systems of Australia and England because they are totally different. We have produced world beaters not because of the state support but due to their own talent and commitment.

We should at least look at what India is doing. We have similarities in so many things. India, which is considered a global power in sports, aims to influence Olympics podium vigorously in 2028 Games. Its central government is completely behind its sports development programmes.

It last year launched Khelo India programme which is expected to gift India with the best of talent in different disciplines. Initially it had targeted school games but modified it by adding college games on the lines of the college games in the United States and transformed it to India Youth Games. The government also involved its Olympic committee.

Around 9000 school and college students (under-17 and under-21) took part in these Games early this year. According to rules, the top athletes of this multi-sporting spectacle in India will be given annual scholarship of Rs500,000 per player for eight years.

Their aim is to form a solid base and groom the pool through quality training and exposure. The programme includes large-scale training of trainers so that they could work at various levels. It also has the best talent tracking system and some other important areas which could convert India into a more powerful sporting nation of the world.

Sports play a great role in character building. If Imran Khan wants to build a strong society he will have to reform the sports system and put it on our priority list. Without involving education sector in sports development, Pakistan cannot grow in this vital field.

I have been writing on sports for the last 17 years but I have rarely seen any project in the sector creating hope for the future stars in various disciplines.

Our athletes always remain busy seeking a professional outlet because they are unable to pull off anything substantial in their amateur careers due to lack of proper patronage from the state.

Few federations focus on youth development. Some rely on experienced players for years because they don’t have back-up as the grassroots structure has been destroyed.

As journalists, we receive many press releases about sports events but these are always arranged by the organisers for monetary benefits. We say that there is no sponsor for our elite athletes but at the same time we also see how money is given to the organisers of various events at different places. But we don’t want to know how much such events benefit our sports. Do they aim to promote the sector or are these events held by the organisers for making money only? We need a system which could eradicate cheats, encourage sincere sports organisers and ensure smart growth of athletes. The authorities must take some initiative to stop the slide in sports.

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