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POA chief urges combined efforts to address alarming sports decline

Pak hockey

LAHORE: Lamenting apathy and unprofessional attitude of the stakeholders that badly damaged sports in the country for long, Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) president retired Lt Gen Arif Hasan has called for united efforts by government and national federations in order to rid Pakistan sports of rapid decline and put them on the right track.

“It is necessary to address all the issues hindering the promotion of our sports. [In this regard] the POA is writing a letter to the federal sports minister seeking a joint sitting of all stakeholders to discuss the related matters and devise a formula on how to remove those hindrances and put the country’s sports on the right track,” Gen Arif told reporters after presiding over the association’s general council meeting here on Wednesday.

“Look, even Sri Lanka is now far ahead of Pakistan in the field of sports; this certainly should be a cause of serious concern for all the stakeholders of sports in Pakistan,” Gen Arif, who has been holding the office of POA chief since 2004, maintained.

“The decline in [our] sports is nothing new because we overlooked many disciplines, other than hockey, for a long time. Only due to hockey we have been featuring in Olympic Games.

“But this time [in Rio Olympics starting next month] after we could not qualify even in hockey, our long failure of not qualifying for other Olympic sports has highlighted the gloomy scenario,” the POA chief underlined.

“Now the time has come for us to seriously think about this decades-long pathetic position of ours in sports so that appropriate remedial measures can be pondered for better results in future.”

Here it may be mentioned that a 17-member Pakistan contingent, including seven contestants (two athletes, as many swimmers and shooters and one judoka) and ten officials, will feature in the Rio Olympics starting on Aug 5.

The contingent, the smallest ever in Pakistan’s Olympic history after the country failed to qualify for field hockey which used to form the bulk of the contingent in the past Olympics, will depart from three different cities — Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi — in two batches (first on Aug 1 and second on Aug 2). The reason: the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB), owing to its highly-criticised apathy and unprofessional approach, could not even book the flight seats well on time.

Commenting on the grossly mismanaged PSB, Gen Arif emphasised that the authorities concerned — instead of taking decisions on personal liking and disliking — should run the Board like a proper institution for the benefit of sports.

“If you check the PSB records, you would find that in recent times [financial] grants were issued to those [national] sports federations, which are yet to be recognised. Whereas many genuine federations, despite having done relatively better, have been kept waiting for their due grants,” he lamented.

“The PSB has a total budget of around Rs700 million. However, a major portion of this budget is being spent on the Board’s administrative affairs after which just Rs132 million is left for the grants to be forwarded to 32 national sports federations,” the POA chief highlighted.

When brought into his notice that the federal government had handed a significant grant ofRs620 million in one year to the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF), whereas the other sports were being treated in the same way, Gen Arif while appreciating the grant given to the PHF added that other disciplines should also be provided appropriate financial assistance.

While acknowledging that the Pakistan Federation Baseball through its own resources was doing a great job for the game — citing both the national men and women teams were participating in this year’s World Cup — the POA chief was surprised the PSB had not issued the PFB any grant yet.

“If this trend [of arbitrary management] continues in our sports affairs, then after four years, the general council and media will be again discussing the same decline in Pakistan sports,” said Gen Arif.

Meanwhile, Gen Arif said the Balochistan Olympic Association was all set to organise the 33rd National Games in Quetta in November this year.

He further said that both the cycling and judo federations had to withdraw their legal cases against the POA, if they wanted to take part in the National Games.

“The allowances for the National Games participants have been increased plus some new rules [for the Games] have also been approved by the general council,” Gen Arif concluded.


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