Over the past many years, June 23, which commemorates the founding of the International Olympic Committee in 1894, serves as a painful reminder of the condition of sports and athletes in Pakistan.
Mismanagement, misappropriation of funds, lack of promotion and poor infrastructure are some of the major reasons behind the deplorable state of sports, other than cricket, in Pakistan.
For instance, Pakistan was once considered a powerhouse in the world of hockey, which also led to multiple medals in the Olympics. However, things have taken a turn for the worse over the past decade or so.
While speaking to SAMAA Digital, Pakistan national hockey team’s captain Umer Bhutta highlighted the importance of implementing a long-term plan to revive the game in the country.
“We need to devise a proper three-to-five-year plan in order to help Pakistan hockey regain its lost glory,” said Bhutta.
“We need to invest on players to improve their physical fitness and training methods, while also increasing the number of matches they play. If we do this consistently, I’m sure our team can be among the top five in the world,” he added.
Despite its rich history — which includes a total of 97 medals in major events like Asian Wrestling Championship, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, World Wrestling Championships and the Olympics — wrestlers in Pakistan still don’t have access to a proper academy which meets international standards. The effects of this have been felt at the international level as not even a single wrestler has been able to qualify for the Olympics since 1996.
Shedding light on the unfortunate situation, wrestling coach Farid Ali said that Pakistan have fallen behind in the sport due to their failure in adopting modern methods.
“We didn’t change our methods in accordance with international requirements but still expected better results. The wrestlers who train on mud can’t do well on mats,” said Farid. “Although, I still think that wrestling will be the first sport to bring a medal home for Pakistan in the future. In terms of skills our wrestlers are really good, however we struggle in terms of diet and fitness.”
He also explained the difficulties faced by wrestlers in the country but was hopeful about Pakistan winning a medal at the Olympics if a proper system is put in place.
“If I talk about Punjab, 80 percent of the wrestling clubs are based in graveyards. We don’t have space to setup wrestling academies and clubs. Government needs to provide infrastructure at grass roots level,” he said. “Pakistan Sports Board only gives us a couple of months for camp whenever an event is set to take place but apart from that we are on our own and they totally ignore us. We desperately need an academy which works on wrestlers of all ages.”
“I’m 100 percent sure that if a proper system is provided, our wrestlers will win medals at the 2024 or 2028 Olympics,” he concluded.
Boxing is one of the three sports, along with wrestling and hockey, in which Pakistan has won a medal, Hussain Shah’s bronze in 1988 Seoul Games, in Olympics.
Muhammad Waseem, who is the first Pakistan boxer to ever win the World Boxing Council (WBC) silver flyweight title twice, also painted a depressing picture of the sport in the country.
“Unless and until real talent is promoted, Pakistan won’t win any medals at the Olympics. The events organised by the Pakistan Boxing Federation are riddled with dishonesty as they decide beforehand the number of medals which every department will win. If they continue like this, Pakistan will never win another boxing medal. Seeing the poor condition of boxing in Pakistan makes me very sad on such a big day,” said Waseem.
He also accused the Pakistan Boxing Federation of favouritism in selecting players and holding tournaments.
“Recently, the team selected for the commonwealth games was selected without any merit as all the talented athletes were ignored,” he said. “In an inter-department tournament organised by the Pakistan Boxing Federation, some of the departments were informed about the date of the tournament beforehand, which helped them set up camps and prepare for the event, while others were not. If they continue to act like this, forget about winning a medal in the Olympics as we are not even prepared to win one in SAFF Games.”
Bearing in mind the condition of sports in Pakistan, only a concerted effort by the government and local sports bodies can help the country compete at the highest level or else the future won’t be any different from the present.
Pakistan’s history at the Olympics
First appearance – Pakistan’s maiden appearance in the Olympics came during 1948 in London.
18 – Pakistan have made 18 appearances at the Olympics between 1948 and 2020.
First medal – Pakistan’s first medal at the Olympics was won by the men’s hockey team, which won silver at the 1956 Melbourne games.
First gold medal – Pakistan’s maiden Olympic Gold was won by the men’s hockey team in Rome during 1960.
First individual medal – Pakistan’s wrestler Mohammad Bashir won bronze medal during the 1960 Rome Olympics.
10 – Pakistan have won 10 medals at the Olympics, which includes three gold, three silver and four bronze.
Most successful sport – Pakistan’s hockey team has bagged the highest number of medals for their country, which includes three gold, three silver and two bronze.
Zero – Pakistan are yet to win a medal in the Winter Olympics after four appearances.
Last appearance – Pakistan’s most recent appearance in the Olympics came during the 2020 Tokyo games.