Thursday September 29, 2022

Pakistan must invest in athletes to win at major events: Saadi

August 19, 2022

KARACHI: Pakistan's seasoned karateka Saadi Abbas on Thursday said that the country will need to spend on athletes if it is to claim medals in the Islamic Games and other major international events.

“The Islamic Games standard in a few sports disciplines, including karate, is of world level and it's not a joke to win medal at this stage without enough foreign exposure and incentives for the players,” Saadi told 'The News' in an interview from Konya, Turkey.

Saadi, who had claimed silver in the 2017 Baku Islamic Games, exited the ongoing Islamic Games in Turkey on Wednesday after losing a close fight against world champion Dastonbek Otabolaev of Uzbekistan.

“Islamic Games standard is very tough, especially in martial arts. In my weight, there was a world champion, a world silver medallist and a bronze medallist. Egypt, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are very strong. The fighter from Saudi Arabia is a Premier League gold medallist and the fighter from Turkey is a European gold medallist,” Saadi pointed out.

“Tunis and Algeria are tough and for beating such nations you need to have facilities which the fighters from these nations enjoy,” Saadi said.

“I lost a very close fight against the world champion here. We knew each other well. I was leading right from the start and did not want to apply any such technique which could be risky. And it was only in the last 30 seconds that the fight ended in favour of the rival through the referee's decision,” Saadi said.

“All nations had prepared very well for this event. After featuring in the South Asian Games in Nepal in 2019, we did nothing. You cannot win a medal at this stage through a five-month camp in Pakistan unless you give international matches and ample exposure to your athletes,” said Saadi, also a two-time Commonwealth Championship gold medallist.

“As far as performance of our other karatekas in the Islamic Games is concerned, I think they did well. Naseer performed extremely well and lost to a fighter from Azerbaijan 3-2. Fakhr-un-Nisa played exceptionally well on her debut. She beat Cameroon's fighter before losing her second fight through referee's decision as it was locked 0-0. Imran is a new face but he also played well. I think without any international exposure our fighters did a good job in Konya,” said Saadi, also a former Asian champion.

“Besides sending fighters we also should send our coaches to such events so that they could sit with the coaches of other nations and learn from them,” Saadi said.

“The big issue is that those who get medals are appreciated but those who lose are not given any weightage. We should know about the strength of an event and the facilities we are giving to our athletes,” he said.

“Look, our wrestlers and weightlifters did well in the Commonwealth Games because there were no world-class athletes. And here in the Islamic Games they did not perform the way they did in Birmingham. The basic reason is that in the Islamic Games standard was very high as world beaters featured in these games,” Saadi said.

After featuring in the Islamic Games, Saadi has now focused his eyes on the Commonwealth Karate Championship slated to be held in Birmingham from September 9-11. “Yes, I plan to participate in it. I have got visa but it depends on whether sponsors will back me,” he said.

“Look, I have got two gold medals in the Commonwealth Karate Championships and want to complete a hat-trick. The issue is that no one encouraged me on winning two golds. I did not get any cash prize. Nor did anybody give me ticket expenses,” Saadi complained.