Sports politics and its impact

October 10, 2021

Any unilateral decision will affect the whole system, but who will suffer the most? Neither the PSB nor the POA. It will be our athletes

Sports politics and its impact

Politics has been consistently damaging Pakistan sports. When in the rest of the world media mainly focus on the actual sporting event, in Pakistan journalists look for the side stories which shows how we have politicised sports. It is all an ugly mess.The country’s two major sports governing bodies, the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) and the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA), are at loggerheads which has created a big uncertainty around our sports future.

And federations have been witnessing this battle. They don’t have any option and cannot dissociate themselves from any body as affiliation with both is very important.

The battle between the POA and the government has created big problems for our athletes. This issue, if not resolved soon, will affect Pakistan’s preparations for the next year’s major events, including Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and Islamic Games. It will also affect the 14th South Asian Games which the country will host in early 2023. And on that front the differences between the two bodies have started emerging. It would be in the best interests of the national athletes if these two bodies resolved their issues as quickly as possible. The government in this case must show wisdom and prevent Pakistan’s sports from plunging into a deep ravine.

Issues can be resolved through table talks. Any unilateral decision in a field involving various stakeholders will affect the whole system.

Who will suffer? Neither the PSB nor the POA, but only athletes. We have seen how politics destroyed football and even FIFA have failed to resolve this issue which has snatched bread and butter from millions of people dependent on this game.

Once a potential team in Asia, Pakistan suffered a setback in basketball because of politics. And we are nowhere now in this sport. We can resolve every issue if we keep in mind that our ego will affect athletes and their families. Instead of adding to the fire National Assembly and Senate Standing Committees on IPC should play their role in resolving the issues between the POA and the PSB. These bodies should bring both the parties to the negotiating table and the problems should be discussed and a solution should be sought in order to prevent the system from being derailed. These two committees should not dictate their own terms but should mediate and resolve the differences between the two entities.

If we are to correct the sports governance and seek remedial measures, we will have to seek consensus and take unanimous decisions.

Things must be sorted out quickly. We have very little time at our disposal as we have to feature in some important international events next year.

Other nations have started preparing for the Asian Games while we are yet to plan for it. Plans for such events are made collectively. When the POA and the PSB have issues between them how will they plan for these Games?

China will host the Asian Games in September. Before that Birmingham will host the Commonwealth Games in July-August. There is hardly a 35-day gap between these two events. And then there will be Islamic Games. These days renovation is in progress at the Pakistan Sports Complex Islamabad and the PSB’s regional centres which may further delay the training camps. The other day a senior official of the PSB told me that the Board was eager to begin camps soon. Let’s see what happens.

A lot of work is needed. Federations not only need camps for these events but also foreign tours and foreign coaches. If we don’t take steps immediately we will not be able to get things done in time.

I always say that DG PSB should be more powerful. He should have unlimited administrative and financial powers and in current situation I don’t think DG is powerful. Someone else takes decisions and this is a big issue as it wastes time.

I wrote a story on kabaddi the other day and here I must say that it’s time for the NCOC to lift restrictions from full body contact sports. Kabaddi has faced severe losses as our players have been waiting for an event since the outbreak of the pandemic. It is the responsibility of the PSB to seek special permission from NCOC for kabaddi so that a camp could be held under SOPs. We have a big medal chance in this discipline in the Asian Games. But a long camp is required as players are in bad shape and need hectic training for a long time. India has resumed its kabaddi activities as players are preparing for the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) which will begin on December 22.

Although sponsors may be reluctant and bringing foreign players may be difficult due to Covid, still Strawberry Sports Management should try to plan its Super Kabaddi League (SKL) once the kabaddi activities resume. Holding SKL before the Asian Games will be a big boost for the sport in the country and preparations for the continental extravaganza.

Meanwhile, the Ashfaq group and Normalisation Committee should sort out their issues and pave way for holding the PFF elections so that our teams could resume their international engagements.

There is a huge cleavage between the two entities and it will not be easy for the government to resolve football issue so easily as it thinks.

Boxing is also on radar of the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB). The PSB says that Pakistan Boxing Federation (PBF) is not acceptable to AIBA, the world boxing governing body. But I have received a few emails which show that AIBA still recognises the PBF. This issue also needs resolution as these differences between the PBF and the PSB will only harm boxers.

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Sports politics and its impact