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Slipping Behind.

Byline: Javed Ansari

At the recent Commonwealth Games, India won a total of 66 medals, just behind Australia and England, while Pakistan got five. True India is a big country in terms of population but even then, the Games depicted a level of the country's involvement in sports that is not matched by any other nation in the South Asian region. India went in with 216 participants while Pakistan had 83. Sri Lanka, a much smaller country, fielded a 79-person squad and won 6 medals; the third largest South Asian country, Bangladesh just managed 2 medals with 23 participants. Indian sportsmen and women represented athletics, b ing, badminton, basketball, cyclin hockey, gymnastics, bowling, ooting, swimming, squash, table tennis, weightlifting, wrestling and para sports.

Pakistan participated in athletics, badminton, boxing, hockey, shooting, squash, swimming, table tennis, weightlifting and wrestling. The country is supposed to be second largest in the SAARC regio in terms of size and population but i seems it has let go its supremacy i sports. This can also be gauged fro the fact that Pakistan fared at the 4 place at the Commonwealth Game held in Perth in 1962 where it won gold medals.

Today, all Pakistan and its peopl care about is the game of crick though it is also true that cricket reign supreme in India as well. However, is encouraging to see that the Indian have paid due attention to other spo and are now gradually making the presence felt in the international arena.

In previous years Pakistan participated in many other sports and excelled in some. It was the world squash and field hockey champion for a long time and also made a name for itself in snooker. Besides these sports, it took part in boxing, netball, tent pegging, polo, football, athletics, badminton, equestrian sports, gymnastics, kabaddi, mountaineering, table tennis, tennis, volleyball, weightlifting, wrestling, rowing and swimming. These may all not have been Olympics, Asian or Commonwealth Games events, but they were competitive sports and sportsmen and women from all over the country were quite involved in them at various levels. Somehow, that national sporting spirit has now disappeared.

The Quaid e Azam was a great sports lover himself and wanted the country to compete in as many sports as possible at the international level.

Since he was a great disciplinarian, he thought that sports would inculcate discipline in the people. It is unfortunate that over the years, sports in Pakistan have suffered on many fronts. A basic problem has been the lack of funds allotted to sports and spending on sports has hardly featured anywhere in the national budget. It is common knowledge that the sports associations and the persons elected to these bodies who are entrusted with the development of various sports, do not take interest in the responsibilities given to them and squander funds elsewhere. Sports facilities that exist today are generally of a low standard. The result is that the people of Pakistan, though having the talent and sporting spirit, have fallen behind other nations in a very major way. The rulers and the aspirants to rule the country seem to have no real love for sports or any physical activity.

All they are bothered about is their political performance and how they can enter the legislatures, not to serve the people but to rob the national exchequer.

The real rot in Pakistan's sports began in the 1970s when the government stopped investing in sports and a continuous decline set in. It was obvious that despite the political lip service, no government seemed to be interested in promoting sports at any level - national, provincial or district. Over the years, it has been observed that successive governments in Pakistan, whether civilian or military, have been involved in other issues and sports development has been their least priority. Besides the government, it is also unfortunate that other national institutions that organized and financed various sports, besides cricket, have gradually withdrawn their support. There was a time when the armed forces fielded their teams in field hockey, football, athletics, boxing, etc. and groomed many outstanding sportsmen to compete at the national and international level.

Other outstanding teams in various sports were patronized and built by the Pakistan Customs, Railways, PIA and individual banks but all that is a thing of the past now. No institution seems to have a sports budget anymore. Some banks back the game of cricket but that too at the T20 level - and the backing has its roots in commercial considerations. There is no money being spent by the institutions in any other sports. Some organizations, such as the PTCL, have made efforts to support the game of hockey but this has been a rather isolated attempt and has not been picked up by the media. It is rather ironic too that while the media has been promoted and has expanded in a very major way, it has not played any role in promoting sports in the country. Their patronage of sports is also driven by commercial interests, whether at the coverage or at the sponsorship level.

The way things are going, it appears Pakistan will continue to slip further behind on the sports field. While bad performances on the sports field reflect badly on the national image, they also impact the national outlook and the nation continuously suffers as physical activities and a healthy lifestyle are not given due importance.
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Publication:South Asia
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Jul 31, 2018
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