Pakistan's sports authorities seem to have made no plan for the Olympic qualifiers
Pakistan's sports industry is facing a major financial problem. The country is unable to handle its sports effectively. We mostly depend on a few top heroes in a few individual sports disciplines for bringing medals. There is no money which could pave the way for crafting a long-term resource-intensive strategy which could lift our sports. Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) budget is Rs1 billion and its major chunk is spent on salaries, pensions and other matters of its employees and it is not possible to run the entire sports at the central level through this small amount.
The big issue is that our leaders decide to spend heavily on infrastructure which is of no utility if you don't spend on the athletes. According to state sources the current government has decided to spend Rs12 billion on 250 mini stadia which it will be constructing around the country. This is a foolish step and just a waste of money. We have already spent a huge amount on Narowal Sports Complex which is of no utility. Why are we wasting such a huge amount? We already have infrastructure in the country but it is important to upgrade it and make it suitable for the athletes training. Our athletes train in extremely hot weather in the available halls which lack cooling systems. The state should increase the PSB budget by a few billion rupees as in this crunch situation we will not be able to back our mainstream sports.
If we look at the current scenario it will become clear that we have no plans for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
You can plan when you have resources. If you plan within the available resources then it means you have no plans and you cannot plan. There are a number of disciplines in which we can qualify for the Olympics.
It was important to establish camps across the country for the Olympics Qualifiers soon after the Islamic Games held in Turkey in August.
Some of our athletes are in camps but there are no full-fledged camps which is disappointing. How long will we continue to run our sports on an ad-hoc basis? We don't learn from other nations and that is why we are so weak in the international sports circuit. Sports is a big industry and this can help the country enormously if we focus on it. The biggest issue is that this sector is not the priority of the government and that is why our top athletes have been seen managing their foreign tours from their own pockets.
We have a big example in the shape of top karateka Saadi Abbas who has earned nothing despite bringing several medals for the country during his illustrious career.
The big issue of our country is that those athletes who do something in any international event are hugely encouraged but nobody thinks about those who lose narrowly at the biggest stages or fight hard and can be graded as future stars.
We should change our mentality and handle the sports through professional hands. We need highly skilled hands in the PSB and IPC Ministry. The PSB DG should be strong and should make crucial decisions and enjoy more administrative and financial powers. The big issue is that DG PSB has no big powers and that is the main reason that he cannot take decisions in time. It's also important for DG to have a skilled and effective work-force around in the Board which he currently does not have.
It's high time the state took action and issued huge funds for the Olympic Qualifiers. Some people would say that Pakistan is facing a natural disaster in the shape of wide-scale flooding but I will say we always face such issues. It is not an excuse and we cannot stop our sports. It's a sector which we will have to keep running and it's a sector on which millions of families directly depend.
It's the need of the hour to make a decision and hold camps of all those top athletes who have the ability to qualify for the Paris Olympics. We have the chance to qualify for the Olympics in wrestling, weightlifting, athletics, boxing, judo, taekwondo and shooting. Efforts should be made to provide foreign tours to the top-ranked athletes in these disciplines. Foreign training would help them prepare for tough events. In some disciplines like judo there is the need for long-term planning. Its qualifiers will run for around two years. The qualifiers of judo have already started and we have to field our fighters this year in four events.
In wrestling, although there are a few major qualifying rounds, we need to help the grapplers and field them in every ranking event so that they can improve their rankings. This will help them in the qualifiers as there they will be bracketed with a weak lot.
Although a few athletes have got IOC scholarships, it will not help them much. We will need to back them with huge state funding and it's the only option.
The big issue is that we not only have to treat our Olympics aspirants but we will have to treat those players also who will be preparing for the Asian Games and South Asian Games. So, there will be a need for a huge amount of money and the federal government should work in this regard. The IPC minister Ehsan-ur-Rehman Mazari should seriously look into the sports matters. I think he is too defensive. He needs to be aggressive. That is the only way to lift sports in the country. It's high time we made an emergency plan so that our Olympics hopefuls could get the right training and press for the Olympic seats. Earning Olympics seats always remains a long-cherished dream of the players. They should be backed.