Champions defeated: Vulnerable sports structure in Pakistan
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Champions defeated: Vulnerable sports structure in Pakistan

by Muhammad Imran Ali

Arshad Nadeem, first Pakistani in history to qualify for the final of track Vulnerable sports and field event at the Olympics. He reached the final on Wednesday last week with the third best throw of the day at 85.16 meters but he finished with the fifth on Saturday. Nadeem, 24 years, was born in Mian Channu, a small city in Khanewal District, and grew up in poverty. According to his current and former coaches, he managed to reach the top despite the lack of funds and State support (Geo News, August 7, 2021). Another Pakistani Talha Talib ranked fifth at the Tokyo Olympics. The Pakistani weightlifter missed a rare Olympic medal. Talha started the race without a coach, only with the support of his family and friends (Dawn, July 26, 2021).

The Olympics are the best-known international sporting events and are appreciated all over the world. The success of a sport at the Olympic level depends entirely on the ability and talent of the athlete, or in the case of team sports on the collective talent of the team. Olympians are not produced overnight. This is a long-term commitment backed by financial resources.

In the developing countries, there may be many reasons for the lack of medals, but the most important is that sport has not been a priority for anyone, including the government, institutions and athletes’ families. Investment in sports in developing countries is much lower than that of in the developed countries, as sport development is generally not a top priority in the national budgets or in the education systems of most of the developing countries. The underdevelopment of sports in developing countries creates a vicious circle in which less investment in sport diminishes the potential for athletes to build their talent. Developing countries are unable to harness the talent of their strong players or tend to lose them to the more powerful countries in global sports. It implies that athletes are less likely to play sports or pursue a professional sports career in a developing country such as Pakistan. On the other hand, the lack of opportunities for talent development leads to a lower return on little investment put into local talent, which further weakens the structures of local sports development and sports career paths.

In Pakistan, sports are managed and developed by two separate institutions, the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) and the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA). The PSB is a legal entity that aims at promoting and developing uniform standards for competitions in Pakistan that are comparable to internationally applicable standards. It regulates and controls sports in Pakistan at the national level. The PSB is also responsible for providing annual financial support to national sports federations affiliated with international organizations and the POA. It is also authorized to organize training camps for athletes to participate in national and international sporting events. In short, PSB is entrusted with the overall promotion and development of sports, sports federations and players in the country. On the other hand, the role of the POA is to nurture Olympic culture and promote Olympic values in Pakistan. The Pakistan Olympic Association is also authorized to send athletes and officials to represent the country at the Olympic, Continental, Regional and Commonwealth Games.

Unfortunately, PSB that is responsible for promoting sports and players has failed to provide annual financial support to national federations responsible for training and preparing athletes for national and international events. Our national sports federations rely primarily on grants from the government and corporate sector to perform their duties. The government needs to analyze where it is really missing. To be sure, the government needs to take urgent but large-scale action to revive fewer sports assets. If we don’t invest in our players, in infrastructure and in federations by providing financial support, we should not expect anything form them.

A special sports commission should be established to design, coordinate, monitor and take responsibility for all sports activities at all levels, from nurseries to national levels. We need a comprehensive and pragmatic sports plan where community, educational institutions, departments, private companies and sponsors register and contribute to nation building through sportsmanship.

The decline of the sport in Pakistan has lasted for too long. It is imperative that our government brings all stakeholders together and invites people to talk about this issue. The lack of professionalism of people at the forefront of business has left us far behind in the world. Many rising stars have achieved personal fame without any government support based on talent and personal resources. Athletes need financial, physical and emotional support and encouragement in international competitions. To achieve this, the government and families will have to change their perceptions of sports from extracurricular activities to stairs to raise their standard of living.

It is up to the government to provide facilities to the sports federations and the provincial associations which can then establish and groom players for international events. The need of the hour is that clear laws and rules must be designed to get the corporate sector to work with national federations to strengthen sports in our country.

The writer is a research scholar LL.D (Public Law) and is serving as a lecturer at Lahore Leads University’s Department of Law. He can be reached at [email protected].

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