* Requests government to enhance sports budget to compete with other nations
LAHORE: Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) President Lt Gen (r) Syed Arif Hasan said Saturday that revolutionary and modern steps were needed if Pakistan wanted to win medals in international arena and compete with other nations. Arif was giving an important presentation on the Development of Sports in Pakistan, organised by the National Olympic Committee at a local hotel here. Also present on the occasion were POA Secretary General Muhammad Khalid Mahmood, Inter Provincial Coordination (IPC) Minister Mian Riaz Hussain Pirzada, IPC Secretary Sports Muhammad Ejaz Chaudhary, officials of the National Sports Federations and Provincial Sports Associations, Directors Sports, educationists, journalists and many sports enthusiasts to be part of this programme and share their views for the promotion and the development of sports in the country. The aim of the presentation was to create awareness among the government circles, both at federal and provincial levels, and the masses about how important sports are, what role they play in the lives of the people, Pakistan’s performance in mega events like the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and reasons for the decline of sports in Pakistan.
It was not a lifetime ago when Pakistan was amongst the top sporting nations. Needless to say today we are not. There was a significant infrastructure in Pakistan – at least by Asian standards – and some international-level stadiums and sports arenas. Cricket, in particular, was the highlight of Pakistan and it fetched the 1992 World Cup to much jubilation and festivities. Hockey, being the national game of Pakistan, was not as popular as cricket but the team was good enough to win Olympic gold medals and World Cup titles. Squash was a game that was ruled by Pakistan for over two decades. There were a couple of medals in boxing and a snooker world title. The projectile growth of sports ended in mid-nineties. Since then; it has been a free fall for Pakistan sports. Because sports and their dynamics have changed tremendously over the years and Pakistan has not been able to keep pace with the latest requirements that are needed for success and glory.
Arif, who has recently been elected as the Olympic Council of Asia Vice President for the third time, said sports in Pakistan were at a critical juncture. “Our traditional focus on trying to deliver high performance a ‘top down’ approach will not work any longer. Practices that have previously enabled us to ‘punch above our weight’, are not keeping pace with competing nations’ efforts. The individual efforts that played a significant role in establishing our nation’s international sporting reputation has been overtaken by the demands of economics, technology, non-availability of opportunities,” added Arif. He said the sporting success depended upon having a structure in place that supported talented young performers every step of the way. “Coaching, competition, facilities and support services need to be available at the appropriate level throughout the system, not just at the elite end of sport. Creating a linked, progressive system of talent development is vital if we are to provide an opportunity for the very best to emerge,” he maintained.
Arif lamented that root cause of decline of Pakistan sports was that schools, colleges and universities were not producing athletes as previously they had been doing. “If we aspire for an Olympic medal then we need to begin laying a strong foundation for grassroots sports today. And the key to grassroots sports is the department of education, the single national organization that can organise and operate a nationwide sports programme from the local to the national level.” Arif quoted International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Back that ‘sports is not a distraction from education but it is an important part of education’.
Children and youth spend more time in schools than any other setting with the exception of their homes. Accordingly, if young people are going to engage in adequate amounts of physical activity, it is essential that schools systematically and effectively provide and promote participation in physical activity. The problem is that many schools are not willing to have physical literacy programmes or competitive sport and some teachers are not willing to join in and play their part.
Arif gave example of India and other European countries who are spending billions of dollars to excel in sports but the situation in Pakistan is quite the opposite. “We get peanuts as compared to other countries. Education and sports are not priority of the government in Pakistan. Excellence in sports does not spring spontaneously but is a product of heavy labour and disciplined regime,” he added. Arif said if Pakistan wanted results then there should be infrastructure for all sports. “For policy makers it is important to know which types of sport infrastructure should be built to increase sport participation.”
It is pertinent to mention that traditional training is no longer enough. Science and technology are now integral parts of the athletes quest to reach new frontiers. Sports scientists and performance consultants are growing in demand and employment numbers, with the ever-increasing focus within the sporting world on achieving the best results possible. Through the study of science and sports, researchers have developed a greater understanding on how the human body reacts to exercise, training, different environments and many other stimuli. In fact sport has become a science. Worldwide strategies are focused on increasing levels of participation in sport and recreation as well as achieving success in high profile sports.
“To achieve success in sporting arena then Pakistan must have 10-year or 20-year programmes. The role of the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) should be defined on modern lines and its should be reorganised. Pakistan educational institutions should restart hectic sports activities with all facilities to produce top athletes. Sports at tehsil, divisional, district and club levels be promoted through local governments. The Higher Education Commission (HEC) should formulate mandatory sports development policy for colleges and universities. Modern coaches are mandatory. Role of corporate sector for sponsorships is must. And above all, infrastructure along with appropriate funds be provided for excellence in sports,” he concluded.