There is an insignificant county in Europe that is named San Marino, which has a population of 34,000 people, yet has so far won three Olympic medals in Tokyo 2020, one silver and two bronze. Uganda, which gained independence 15 years after Pakistan has two gold, one silver and one bronze medal as well, whereas a small country like Fiji has a gold medal in their tally. That’s sad, because Pakistan is amongst the most populous nation in the world, yet the contingent returns without a medal – any medal – for the seventh consecutive time. For a country that entered its first Olympics before its first birthday, that won its first medal within nine years and its first gold medal within 13 years, this is not just shameful, but shocking and disturbing.
Shameful, because no one seems to care about Pakistan’s performance on the world stage. Since 2004, Lt Gen (Retired) Arif Hasan has been the head of the Pakistan Olympic Association, but he has done nothing to help Sports in the country, as if by choice, than by chance. He has all the power to set things right yet he chooses to keep the seat warm, and do nothing. Whenever the government has tried to remove him, he takes cover behind the Olympic Charter, but it’s time that something should be done. He is as much responsible for this decline as are the Sports Federations and Associations of the country, who are taking Sports down with their non-serious approach. Whoever they don’t support, does well at the Olympics, if he is lucky like Talha Talib and Arshad Nadeem to make it to the mega event.
Shocking, because when the Pakistan Hockey team last won a medal at the Olympics, we were not just World Champions in Cricket, but also in Squash and Snooker. Squash is not Pakistan’s most favored Sport anymore, whereas Snooker is alive because of the players, not the government. As for Cricket, the most popular sport in the country, it is being run in the same way as Pakistan Hockey Federation was in the 1990s, and if things don’t improve, it might meet the same fate. Yes, the players get paid well, the Pakistan Super League is extremely popular as well, but whenever the Pakistan Cricket team takes to the field, it is uncertain whether they will win or lose, until the last moment, whoever the opposition may be.
Last of all, Disturbing, because in a world where countries give their 100% to the Olympics, Pakistani officials don’t seem to care. Otherwise, Talha Talib’s father would have been there to assist him instead of the Philippines Coach who substituted for him and Arshad Nadeem might have ended on the podium had the Federation sent him abroad to horn his skills like the eventual champion Neeraj Chopra from India. Wouldn’t it have been better had the Secretary of Badminton Federation Wajid Chaudhry sent Mahoor Shahzad’s Coach with her instead of nominating himself so that he could feel like an Olympian? It would have been great had a better Swimmer or a deserving female Athlete would have been sent from Pakistan instead of the tried and tested family of (now) three Olympian swimmers (who came back empty, without qualifying every time), or an already-tested Olympian who seemed to walk when others ran on the track.
One of the recent Olympians Mahoor Shahzad who is the number one singles Badminton player in the country couldn’t advance to the next stage at the mega event. Instead of investigating her shortcomings and faults, she launched an attack on ‘Pathan Players’ in Pakistan who ‘used the media to pressurize her,’ somehow. Pakistan’s current men’s number one player Murad Ali and doubles number one Palwasha Bashir are both Pathans, and while one has been banned for two years raising his voice against the injustice of Pakistan Badminton Federation, the other isn’t being allowed to go abroad to better her rankings, so that next time, Mahoor (and her makeshift coach, of course!) gets to feature in the Olympics, without doing much, again! Mahoor Shahzad did apologize a day later for her behavior but not after insulting the many Pathan players who have given their sweat and blood to the country and never once used the ethnic card.
The last time Pakistan won an Olympic medal was way back in the year 1992 when George Bush Sr. was the President of the United States, Imran Khan had recently retired as Captain of the Pakistan Cricket team, the Internet was nowhere to be seen in Pakistan, Vital Signs was a top music band and the country officially had just two TV channels. Since then, a lot has changed, George Bush Jr. was elected US President twice, Imran Khan became the country’s Prime Minister, Pakistan is on the verge of welcoming 5G technology, Junaid Jamshed has passed away and Pakistan has over 100 TV channels. What hasn’t changed is Pakistan’s medal tally, which remains at the same position as it was in 1992, and next year we would be celebrating 30 years without winning an Olympic medal.
What’s the solution you might ask? Pakistan needs to look at other countries as to how they changed their position and follow them. India’s Neeraj Chopra was way ahead of others because he was pampered by his government and federation; he was sent abroad to train with the best, and that’s why he came out as the best in the world. While their men’s and women’s hockey teams reached the semi-finals of the Olympics, Pakistan can’t find 18 players who fit the Central Contract criteria, let alone qualify for the Olympics. The Olympic Games have ended, and we are again left empty-handed like 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016. If heads don’t roll, we might be sending more officials to the Olympic Games three years later, than athletes, and that would be a new low for a country whose Founder bade the first contingent farewell to the Olympics in 1948!