Prof Farakh A Khan :
Pakistan’s 180 million people drew a massive zero in the Olympics. Since 1996 Atlanta Olympics in the last five meets Pakistan failed to win a single medal. Even war torn Afghanistan managed to win a medal in the last Olympics. Only our hockey team had qualified to compete in the Olympics the other few participants were wild cards. Have our experts drawn any conclusions from our miserable state in sports? We have an upgraded Sports Policy of 2005 (Source Internet 2012) produced by Pakistan Sports Board under the Government of Pakistan Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth Affairs. Pakistan has many policies and pious utterances from the high and the mighty but lacks the institutions that can transform them into action. I shall highlight this aspect of our grave problem my next article.
On the ground level the Pakistan Olympics Association has been allowed by the Punjab Government to organise the 32nd National Games in Lahore. In jumps the PSB under pressure from International Olympics Association in a legal tussle, which may not be resolved any time soon (Differences over implementation of National Sports Policy persist. Our Staff Reporter. Dawn Sports. September 1, 2012). Neither of sports bodies have done anything to promote sports in the country. They are presently deeply involved in personal power struggle. With dismal failure to promote sports in the country these high officials should go home and rest in peace but we know that they won’t.
Competitive sports have changed radically in the last few decades led by Russia and China. They have been taking children 5-6 years old and put them through rigorous training programmes. Eventually a few emerge who can mentally and physically compete at the international level. It is not by accident that China has challenged the supremacy of USA in all events in the last Olympics.
Pakistan in the past excelled in squash, hockey and cricket. Squash was freak times for Pakistan limited to a family in Peshawar till others were prepared to work harder. In hockey and cricket children of the privileged picked up hand-eye coordination early in childhood at school and then went on to polish their game in college. Historically we produced outstanding players from educational institutions. Later these training grounds dwindled and a new breed of outstanding players started to emerge. These children were from the underprivileged that as children played in the backstreets or fields adjoining the village. This was fine for cricket and hockey but for other sports special facilities are required where Pakistan has no chance at the international level. In producing outstanding cricketer the concerned association had no part to play.
Let me highlight the plight of cricket in Pakistan. When Imran was selected for the tour of England he did not know that bowlers measured their run up. In any case he was a better batsman than a bowler. Till 1990s the national cricket team had no concept of physical fitness. As in charge of medical team at Gaddafi Stadium during test matches I requested the Board to establish a gym and a sports medicine centre in the Stadium in 1980s but received no reply. The corporations sponsoring teams for major leagues in Pakistan have no role in developing talent. They have no grounds and only pick outstanding players.
It is surprising that Pakistan can excel in some sports. In the past schools and colleges were the repository of sports and produced high-level sportsmen and women. Today most schools are located in converted homes and have no sports facilities and the students have no access to sports. These schools should get together and hire or establish collective sports facilities. The cultural trend among the affluent kids who may have access to sports facilities has changed. They are hooked on electronic games, coca cola and noodles placed in an air-conditioned room during summers and have no interest in sports.
My advice to the Pakistan Sports Board is to formulate a policy targeting children to produce future champions in selected fields. This is a long-term target and shall only bring results more than 10 years from now. Above all they will require dedicated trainers and appropriate facilities.
Pakistan since its inception has a major problem in developing future sportsmen. The major human physical and mental development takes place before the age of 10 years. Pakistan has 40% children with malnutrition who have their mental and physical parameters stunted. Girls are discouraged in taking part in sports. The religious parties and groups are vehemently against girls taking part in sports which they think is immoral clothing or its lack. It is only recently that girls are taking part in cricket. Presently the standard of sports among girls is dismal. This also needs policy regarding female training and participation in sports at the national level.
We should develop centres for various sports where children 5-6 years age are trained for 2024 Olympics. We should concentrate on wrestling since this is our historic sport. At least girls should be included in ‘Shariah compliant’ archery courses. Knowing Pakistan’s inability to organise and carry out projects in any field this will be a non-starter. We may produce occasional international level sportsman but in this the sports bodies shall have no role.
Pakistani leadership does not feel that sporting excellence is an area where they should sink their dwindling financial resources. Winning medals shall not bring glory to our leaders.