Government apathy and boxers’ Olympic prospects

January 12, 2020

Pakistan’s corporate sector is least interested in sports other than cricket. In such a scenario, if the government doesn’t come forward then who will?

Returning to the Olympics fold is the biggest target of Pakistani boxers who have been passing through tough time because of lack of patronage from the state.

The country’s top boxers a few days ago began training for Tokyo Olympics’ Asian and Oceania Qualifying round at the Army Sports Complex in Rawalpindi. As per my knowledge Pakistan Boxing Federation (PBF) had requested the state for camp support but the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) did not respond positively.

The PSB’s stance is not fair as it had asked the PBF how many boxers would be able to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. This is indeed a ludicrous demand from the Board and such approach of the Board also affected Pakistan’s performance in the 13th South Asian Games in Nepal. How will your players develop when they are not properly supported? Pakistan’s corporate sector is least interested in sports other than cricket. And if state does not come forward to promote such sports then who will?

Pakistan has been struggling in boxing for several years and it is very important to focus on the sport in which the nation has a solid history, at least at the continental level. And without state assistance I don’t think the federation can do anything big.

Those training in the Rawalpindi camp are Mohammad Asif, Attaullah, Naqeebullah, South Asian Games gold medallist Niamatullah, Suleman Baloch, Sardar, Saiful Manan, Gul Zeb, Amir Khan, Mehmood-ul-Hasan, Awais Ali Khan and Sanaullah. The Asian and Oceania Qualifying round is slated to be held in Wuhan, China, from February 3-14.

If we see the seats break-up for various eight weight categories for men, we find that there is a chance for our boxers to earn Olympics seats in the continental qualifiers.

The confirmed weight categories for men’s events in Wuhan qualifiers include: Fly (48kg to 52kg); Feather (52kg to 57kg); Light (57kg to 63kg); Welter (63kg to 69kg); Middle (69kg to 75kg); Light Heavy (75kg to 81kg); Heavy (81kg to 91kg) and Super Heavy (91kg to over-91kg). There are six Olympics seats each in the first three weights, five each in the next three weights and four each in the final two weights.

No doubt we have talent but we depend on home training at the Army Sports Complex and that too in very cold weather. I have learnt that the fighters are training hard under AIBA 3-star coach and former Olympian Arshad Hussain.

The other day during an interaction with PBF senior official it emerged that there was chance of national fighters getting foreign training ahead of the World Qualifying round for Olympics to be held in Paris from May 13-24.

I believe that foreign training was more important ahead of the Wuhan qualifiers because we have more chance in the continental leg than the global leg which will be tougher. In the world qualifiers those boxers will compete who fail to make it to the Olympics through their respective continental qualifiers.

But I know that the PBF is facing financial constraints. That can hurt Pak boxers’ prospects.

Before coming back to my topic I would like to mention India’s strategy for the Asian and Oceania qualifiers. This is a rare occasion that India is not sending its boxers abroad ahead of the Wuhan qualifiers. But India is set to host boxers from Australia, Nepal, the Philippines and Italy who also aim to prepare for Olympics qualifiers. Australia and Nepal are confirmed while the other two nations are waiting for visas. This would help India and others to have joint training and face different styles. Pakistan also needed such a strategy. But again due to lack of state support nothing big is possible.

Pakistan’s coach Arshad Hussain told me a few days ago that Army has a lot of stock in boxing and good sparring partners would be available to those aiming to represent Pakistan in the qualifiers in China.

Pakistan is expected to send its boxers to Wuhan three days before the kick-off.

Although the China event is tough, Arshad is confident that his charges will do well. “I am hopeful,” Arshad told ‘The News on Sunday’ (TNS).

“Two or three of our boxers can make it to the Olympics through the Asian qualifiers, but it will depend on draws. If we get some good draws then that will boost our chances,” Arshad said.

He said if boxers were sent three days before the event it would certainly help. “Normally we face such issues on international circuit. Our boxers don’t get breathing space when they arrive for any event. They have to play the very next day after reaching the host city. But it is a plus factor that here we are training in extremely cold weather and in China too we will face the same temperature,” said Arshad, a former Army fighter.

Pakistan last featured in Olympic boxing competitions in Athens in 2004.

So far five Pakistani players have made it to the Olympics: shooters Gulfam Joseph, Ghulam Mustafa Bashir and Khalil Akhtar, javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem and Usman Khan (equestrian).

Pakistan hockey team has failed to qualify for the Olympics. It failed to qualify for 2016 Games as well. Judoka Shah Hussain and karateka Saadi Abbas are working hard to qualify. Taekwondo fighter Haroon Khan is also in line as he will feature in the Asian Championships in China in near future to press for Olympics seat.

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Government apathy and Pakistani boxers’ Olympic prospects