Pakistan sports continue to face many issues which hurt our athletes' performance in major events
In this piece we will cover various matters of Pakistan's sports and the recent developments. The first thing is whether we properly look after our athletes. It's a big question. The devolution of sports has created a big issue in the way of handling national teams and preparing them for international events. Pakistan Sports Board's (PSB) budget is too meagre and it cannot cope with the pressing demands. It has been observed during the last few years that we are unable to impart the kind of training to our athletes which is required for preparation for major international events.
Pakistan is scheduled to field its contingents in the Commonwealth Games and Islamic Games to be held within the next few days but we have been unable to do anything noteworthy in the preparation zone.
On the domestic front we see major loopholes in the available infrastructure which is not suitable for hosting camps in hot weather. These days we have seen players suffer due to hot weather in various centres of the country. Top officials of various federations and key players in various disciplines requested me to write something on the subject which is of great importance.
All were of the opinion that the state needs to develop air-conditioned halls with modern equipment for training purposes. They also suggested that training infrastructure should be developed in areas like Abbottabad which is not only easily accessible but also has fine weather in summer.
I hope the sitting minister of IPC, Ehsan-ur-Rehman Mazari, will note this point. He should note that our athletes had to pass through tough times while preparing for the Commonwealth Games and Islamic Games in hot weather. There is a need for plans to ensure our players don't face any such issues in future.
No doubt, Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) has hired foreign coaches for a few disciplines to prepare the athletes for the Commonwealth Games and Islamic Games but I think unless you train your players with the best lot they will not improve. Barring hockey, we did not see any team or individual players getting ample training on foreign soil to prepare for these events.
Pakistan Taekwondo Federation (PTF) managed a few days training for its fighters in Iran and Pakistan Judo Federation (PJF) sent Qaiser Afridi for a nine-day training to Mongolia recently just ahead of the Grand Slam in Ulaanbaatar. The rest did not get any ample exposure.
Our wrestlers who have high medal hopes in the Commonwealth Games failed to tour Iran for training due to financial issues. Our boxers also failed to get the opportunity to train in Turkey ahead of the Commonwealth Games. And, still, we expect medals from these athletes. If they get medals in these events, it will be a bonus.
Being a sportsman, the DG PSB Col (retd) Asif Zaman is always seen eager to help his athletes but budget is the biggest hurdle in his way to meet the pressing training demands of the players.
The other thing is that PSB lacks skilled hands to support Asif and that is the main reason that things sometimes are not properly handled. He needs a skilled team to handle various matters of the Board in time.
I always say that unless the PSB DG enjoys full powers to take major decisions things cannot be improved. Ministers in Pakistan's culture change frequently and so do IPC secretaries. It is the DG who comes for at least three years. So he should be given unlimited financial and administrative powers to deal with the sports issues properly.
The Commonwealth Games and Islamic Games are just around the corner but we are yet to know exactly about the contingents and their sponsors. The PSB is seen following austerity measures and it is not in a position to back hundred percent contingents for these Games.
It is likely that the Board will sponsor only 61 members of the contingent out of 103 for the Commonwealth Games. The official list is yet to be known. The Board should have sponsored full-fledged contingents for these Games irrespective of the medal chances. Unless you expose your athletes to such major events they will not learn.
The country's premier javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem is set to fly for the United States on July 15 to feature in the World Athletics Championships to be held in Oregon later this month. Arshad is battling a tennis elbow injury and it will be seen how he handles things in the US. He will compete in the qualification stage on July 21.
On July 6 the PSB Board meeting was held in Islamabad in which some major decisions were taken, including the suspension of Pakistan Weightlifting Federation (PWLF) for doping and other reasons. The PWLF sources told me that the decision is one-sided as the Board did not hear the federation on doping issues.
Pakistan Amateur Circle Kabaddi Federation's affiliation has been ratified. However, the federation has been told to submit all the required documents with the PSB within 60 days. This matter may spark a reaction from the ranks of Pakistan Kabaddi Federation (PKF) which is internationally recognised. When the minutes of the Board meeting come then the actual nature of the decisions will be known. The circle kabaddi started in Pakistan in 1964 and the PKF framed rules for it. It has held 44 national championships in circle kabaddi so far. The Asian kabaddi began in 1985. In India only one kabaddi federation handles both Asian style and circle kabaddi. It will be interesting to see how things develop on this front.
The PSB Board also endorsed the decision of the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) to hold the 14th South Asian Games in October and November 2023.
It will be appropriate to reproduce the PSB's press release regarding its Board meeting held in Islamabad under the chairmanship of the IPC Minister Ehsan-ur-Rehman Mazari.
"The minister for IPC and the PSB President Ehsan-ur-Rehman Mazari and DG PSB outrightly denied the media reports about discontinuation of benefits to the retired PSB employees. Minister assured that all allied benefits will continue to be paid to the employees of the PSB and no one will be ousted from the service," the release said.
"Furthermore, the terms and conditions of the employment of the existing employees cannot [sic] not be changed during service as has already been decided by the honourable courts in a number of judgments as pointed out by one of the Board Members Major General (retd) Mohammad Akram Sahi. It was decided unanimously that the terms and conditions of the employees of the PSB shall not be changed. It was also decided that the observation shall be made part of the minutes of the previous 24th Board meeting. It was also decided that the 14th South Asian Games will be held in November 2023. However, input from the National Sports Federations (NFs) regarding venue of different competitions of the said games may be sought," it said. "As per government's policy the PSB will sponsor the athletes having medal potential and excellent performance. However, the POA may like to sponsor more players for forthcoming Commonwealth and Islamic Solidarity Games. If any of them [sic] get laurel for the nation the government and PSB will not only reimburse the participating expenditures but lucrative cash incentives will be given as well. The board approved the enhancement of rates of boarding and pocket allowance for the camp trainees and fixation of rates of special and extra diet to the potential athletes. The Board ratified the affiliation of Pakistan Amateur Circle Kabaddi Federation and in this regard 60 days period will be given to them for completing their requisite documents as per approved affiliation criteria," it said.
"The Board suspended the affiliation of Pakistan Weightlifting Federation being involved in a number of malpractices apart from doping issues. Board unanimously agreed to grant provisional affiliation to the Pakistan Long Range Rifle Association with PSB for a period of one year as provided in the Constitution of the PSB. It was decided that the Ministry of IPC will take up the case with the Ministry of Interior regarding vacation of Liaquat Gymnasium from Pakistan Rangers Troops within a week's time. Board also ratified the adoption of minimum gross salary of Rs.25000 per month to the employees of the PSB as notified by the Finance Division," the press release said.