Pakistan remained a force to be reckoned with for approximately five decades — 1947 to 1997 — when it celebrated golden jubilee of its existence.  — AFP/file

Pakistan remained a force to be reckoned with for approximately five decades — 1947 to 1997 — when it celebrated golden jubilee of its existence. — AFP/file

“For sound minds we should have sound bodies and that is why nations the world over attach so much importance to body building and physical culture. The first Pakistan Olympic Games should act as an incentive to all Pakistan nationals to emulate the Olympic Motto, ‘Citins, Altins, Fortins’ i.e. ‘Faster, Higher and Stronger.’ I wish the organisers of the games and all competitors the best of luck. Build up Pakistan higher, firmer and stronger.” These golden words were uttered by Father of the Nation, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, while inaugurating the Games at Karachi in 1948.

The nation responded whole-heartedly to Jinnah’s words and produced scores of legendary sportsmen who performed remarkably well in the field of sports during the country’s 67-year history. Pakistan, as a sporting nation, reached its zenith when they were declared the world champions simultaneously in four disciplines — hockey, cricket, squash and snooker — in 1994, a rare feat indeed.

Pakistan remained a force to be reckoned with for approximately five decades — 1947 to 1997 — when it celebrated golden jubilee of its existence. During the golden era, Pakistan also won three Olympic gold medals in hockey.

However, during the late 1990s the graph of Pakistan sports nose-dived and it appeared as if the180 million nation was dithering away from Jinnah’s vision. There were many reasons for the falling standards, but in the final analysis three factors — lack of commitment from the players, corruption in funds and separating the ministries of education and sports — are mainly responsible for the decline.

There’s a wide gap between training of players of yesteryear and the present generation. While those stalwarts used to carry out dedicated and strenuous efforts and drills for hours every day, the present set of sportsmen and women are unfortunately found wanting in these areas.

Secondly, the federal and provincial governments, armed forces, Wapda, Railways, Police, HEC, Boards, commercial organisations, educational institutions, etc used to regularly set aside huge funds for sports events annually, but it is a sorry state of affairs that the money is not properly spent or utilised for the past decade or so.

Last but not the least, sports and education go together but bifurcation of the two ministries has done a lot of damage to both the sectors.

In stark contrast, we see the rising graph of China in all aspects of life and sports is definitely one of them. Sky is the limit they say and this comes true for nations who set high standards for healthy sporting activities. China, a leading world power, is producing 15 and 16-year-old prodigies as Olympic and world champions in various sports discipline which is an eye-opener for the rest of the world.

After winning the rights to host the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China had a definite vision to eclipse the United States in the final gold medal count which they successfully achieved to reach the pinnacle of sports. They worked tirelessly and methodically in sports to improve in leaps and bounds since the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 where the Chinese were placed fourth with 16-22-12 medals in the final count.

At the 2000 Sydney Games, China picked up 28-16-15 medals to seize third place in overall finish. The gap between US and China was further narrowed down when the latter grabbed second spot at the Athens Olympiad by bagging 32-17-14 medals. Finally, the big day arrived when China’s dream to finish on top of the ladder was realised at their home soil in Beijing in 2008 where they amassed 51-21-28, pushing the US to second position with 36-38-36 medals.

China is Pakistan’s best friend. A number of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) were signed between the two countries during the Chinese president’s visit to Pakistan last month. Pakistan should also sign an MoU for training of its sportspersons in China on a consistent basis. Young athletes including four to five boys and as many girls from any one one discipline should be sent to China for at least six months training on rotation. The ministry of Inter-provincial Coordination (IPC) should shortlist 10 to 15 disciplines for the purpose.

Pakistani sportsmen including ping pong players have benefited a lot whenever Chinese experts have visited the country in the past on long term coaching assignments. Now, instead of inviting them here which can be difficult due to security concerns, it would be wise to send athletes to China after working the modalities of such a project with our neighbours.

If such an arrangement could materialise, it will for sure turnaround the sporting fortunes and will lift the gloomy sports scenario prevalent in the country to yield fruitful results in the future.

Besides, the Pakistan government should sign another MoU with China for constructing multi-purpose sports complexes at Karachi, Lahore and Quetta on the pattern of the one built in Islamabad. The impressive Islamabad Sports Complex was also constructed by the Chinese in early 80s and has since served as a venue for major sporting events including twice for the South Asian Federation Games.

Published in Dawn,
Anwar Zuberi


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