Zaigham Maseel, who has won several international medals for Pakistan, gives a roadmap for boxing development
I feel great pain for boxing because we had a glorious history in the sport. For the last 15 years the country has been really struggling in the discipline. Pakistan last featured in Olympic boxing in 2004 (Athens). If we look at the current sports system of Pakistan I am not too much optimistic that we will be able to develop the discipline.
The federal government has been saying repeatedly that it has meagre budget following devolution and cannot fund federations massively any more. Pakistan Boxing Federation (PBF) has been struggling for the last few years in bringing any sponsorship. And this really makes the things gloomy. If we are unable to make long-term plans we should make short-term plans to achieve the goal of returning to the Olympics fold.
Let’s ask Bahrain-based 1994 Hiroshima Asian Games silver medallist boxer Zaigham Maseel and he will tell you how we could achieve that goal.
“Yes, through short-term plans Olympics target can be achieved,” Zaigham told ‘The News on Sunday’ (TNS) in an interview from Bahrain.
“Pick on merit leading 20 boxers and put them in a camp now for 2024 Olympics. Keep five best coaches with the brigade along with a commandant who has the ability to monitor various aspects and asses the development of the boxers on a regular basis,” said Zaigham who served as assistant coach of Pakistan squad during the 2004 Athens Olympics.
“Keeping in view the lack of resources, departments like WAPDA and armed forces, besides provinces, should be involved to back the training of the boxers. The federation also should engage sponsors and through this a fighting lot could be prepared for 2024 Olympics qualifying rounds,” Zaigham said.
“Exposure and diet would be absolutely necessary. We should focus on not only physical fitness but also boxers’ mental strength. In Pakistan the issue is that coaches only work on the fitness side of the boxers, completely ignoring their mental strength which is extremely important,” Zaigham said.
“If you scientifically work on the fighters they will improve. Another thing which is often ignored in Pakistan’s boxing culture is that coaches don’t act like a unit. There should be coordination among them. They should, during camp, regularly hold meetings and discuss the various aspects of the boxers. Some boxers are highly talented but they have attitude problems. Overcoming such things is also the job of the coach,” said Zaigham, who is working these days as Director Sports in Pakistan School in Bahrain.
“Unity among coaches is highly valued as it may resolve several issues of boxers. Brave boxers should be selected and their skills should be improved. If effort is made, chicken-hearted fighters can also be made valiant and brave. It all depends on coaches and their hard work and commitment,” Zaigham said.
“We have worked with Cuban coaches and we have learnt from them that skills are very important. They were always seen working on skills and the basics and this makes the fighters productive,” Zaigham said.
“Innovative techniques should be taught to the fighters and that will make them more mysterious and dangerous for the rivals in international circuit,” Zaigham said.
“I agree that finances are the basic issue behind decline of boxing but the issue in Pakistan is that we are not sincere and this prevents us from doing anything praiseworthy,” said Zaigham who is a qualified coach and referee/judge.
“Look here I have worked with Bahrain national team for a few months. Though their boxing standard is not that high, they handle the sport with a professional approach and a Prince here is looking after the fighters and monitoring their growth himself. This is really appealing to me. If we also adopt such an approach then I am sure we can develop the game beyond imagination as we have a lot of talent,” conceded Zaigham, who also got bronze in the 1990 Beijing Asian Games.
Pakistan is yet to field its boxers in the world qualifying round for Tokyo Olympics. Considering our current situation, it would be a miracle if any of our boxer could make the cut for the world’s most prestigious extravaganza which has been postponed for one year due to COVID-19 pandemic and will be held in July-August 2021 in Tokyo.
If we are unable to qualify for next year’s Olympics PBF should plan for the 2024 Olympics from now and work on the highly talented young lot within the age-group of 18 to 20 as by 2024 they would be 22 or 23 and would have also got good international exposure.
Besides other numerous international medals, Zaigham also has to his credit three successive gold medals in the South Asian Games held in 1989 in Islamabad, in 1991 in Colombo and in 1993 in Dhaka.