A Pakistani made headlines this week when he won the World Amateur Championship in snooker. All across Pakistan, people hailed Mohammad Asif who quite literally fought social and economic barriers to compete in this international championship. Pakistan billiards and Snooker association collected funds to send its player to Bulgaria. Earlier on in July, 2 players were unable to participate in the World Under-21 Snooker Championship due to insufficient finances.
Snooker players are however, not the only ones who have been affected with lack of funds. Almost every sport in Pakistan is hampered because of financial constraints. If any athlete does compete on an international level it is probably the result of their personal effort or international grants which is why majority of our aspiring athletes never manage to fulfill their dreams.
At the same time, the decline of professional sports cannot be attributed to a lack of funds. On the whole, sports are given secondary importance by Pakistanis. The best way to encourage people into sports is to encourage this at a young age. Unfortunately, there are not enough schools and colleges with sports facilities. Numerous institutions are developed in residential areas where education is imparted in cloistered over-crowded classrooms. Sports trainers are themselves unqualified and in some cases, political appointees. The culture of sports is thus not enforced. This trend carries ahead in universities who rarely offer sports scholarships to its students. To counter this, Pakistan does not even hold enough camps to boost sports amongst young adults. A sports camp should be equipped with up-to-date facilities and livable residential quarters for participants. The sports camps that are held in Pakistan offer poor residential and dietary facilities which may in turn have a negative impact on the health and psyche of the athletes.
Management of sports federations and Pakistan Sports Board like to blame the security issue for discouraging foreign coaches from working with Pakistani teams. This is where Pakistan can use its ex-sportsmen like Jhangir Khan and Akhtar Rasool to train our teams. In fact, these people can be sent for training aboard to come back and train other athletes.
Miscommunication and corruption within the management has caused the mismanagement of financial and human resources. One way, people would be encouraged to devote time for sports is when they have job security.
With the government over burdened by an overall declining economy, political instability, and more pressing issues like basic sanitation, health and education, the private sector needs to step up. They can contribute by hosting sports events and tournaments, sponsor the construction of facilities like stadiums, basket ball courts, running tracks etc. The incentive to the private investor is obviously added sources of revenue. Simultaneously universities can give sports scholarships to students, which will automatically increase the emphasis parents., and schools lay on the students’ extracurricular endeavors.
But we must ask the question: why are ‘sports’ so important? Is it just a pseudo-Western culture, where we are trying to copy the West and neglect our bigger problems? To that I would like to emphasize that progress and improvement in societies isn’t like a ladder where you qualify for one step after you have cleared a more basic one. Rather they do so by recognizing their shortcomings, and by taking various steps in different directions, at the same time. We don’t’ need to achieve a 100% literacy rate, or eradicate polio dengue completely before we as a society qualify for letting our talented youth compete amongst each other and on the international level in sports, games and athletics. By letting those who have been left behind know that their fellow citizens made it big, followed their dreams and aspirations, we will be motivating an entire nation that seems to have lost all hope, and deems itself unworthy.