Pakistan’s Tokyo Olympics mess: Funds, power rift and whatnot

Arslan SheikhSports Editor

03rd Aug, 2021. 04:40 pm
Tokyo Olympics, Olympics, Pakistan Sports Board, Pakistan Olympics Association

Sports misery in Pakistan continues with another medal-less Olympics on the cards for the sixth-largest country on the planet in terms of population.

In Tokyo 2020, nearly all the athletes participating — just 10 in total — failed to register any significant result, not to the surprise of many.

Those results once again highlighted the differences between two of the most influential bodies in the country when it comes to events such as the one taking place right now in Japan —Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) and Pakistan Olympics Association (POA).

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To have a better understanding of how things work in Pakistan’s sporting fraternity, BOL news contacted officials from three different federations to get their point of view.

Who is to blame?

Pakistan Judo Federation (PJF) President Alam Junaid was the first to answer our call and when asked, he blamed the PSB for the misery of athletes in the country.

“Even our office’s phone has been disconnected as we could not pay our bills,” he said. “A couple of years ago, they [PSB] used to issue funds for qualifying rounds and to hold events locally but that is not the case anymore. Instead of facilitating us, providing us with the place and equipment, they [PSB] charge us rent for the venues.”

Alam further went on to claim that the PJF arranges sponsors itself for international events like the South Asian (SAF) Games.

At the Tokyo Olympics, two swimmers — Bisma Khan and Haseeb Tariq — represented the country and none of them managed to get past the first round of their respective events.

An official from the Pakistan Swimming Federation (PSF), on the condition of anonymity, told Bol News that they have not received any funds from the PSB since its former director-general (DG) Akhtar Ganjera was removed from his post in 2017.

“We have not trained either of them,” said the official working for the PSF. “Bisma is trained by her father while Haseeb moved to Canada after his A-Levels and did his training in his university.”

In contrast to the judo and swimming federations, the Athletic Federation of Pakistan (AFP) President Major General (retd) Mohammad Akram Sahi seemed satisfied with the PSB’s performance, despite admitting that the AFP has not received any funds from the PSB as well.

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“I invested all the funds on Arshad Nadeem,” he said. “I had to plea people for finances so that I could send the talented athlete for training to countries like Iran and Turkey.”

Views regarding POA’s role:

PJF President Alam Junaid highlighted the flaws of POA, who according to him are focused on increasing the number of affiliated federations.

“When we used to win medals, we had lesser sports to focus on and we used to dedicate our resources accordingly,” he said. “Now, the POA is increasing the number of affiliated federations just to increase their votes [in elections].”

On the other hand, the swimming federation official believes that POA is only responsible for implementing the charter of the Olympics.

“POA only implements Olympic charter and to be honest, they can’t do much,” he said. “Ahead of any event like Asian, SAF, Commonwealth or Olympic games, they ask us about our players and officials and they arrange their accreditation and other facilities.”

Contrary to the point of view of the judo and swimming federations representatives, the AFP president was highly critical of the role of the POA.

“People have made sports a source for earning a livelihood,” said Sahi. “Those people have nothing to do with sports, they haven’t played it and they don’t want Pakistan to do well in it. With POA, I mean Lieutenant-General (retd) Syed Arif Hasan, who has been occupying the post of POA president since 2004 and he has not even played gulli danda.”

He further went on to bash POA’s recent statement where they held PSB responsible for Pakistan’s poor run at the Tokyo Olympics.

“You [POA president] held a position for so long, you cannot just get away with such a statement,” he said, claiming that POA has destroyed federations.

The way forward

Accountability is the one solution that everyone agreed upon. According to the officials, the government should hold all the people concerned answerable for the miserable condition of sports in Pakistan.

Other than that, Junaid voiced for rational distribution of funds. “The allocation of financial resources for federations should be based on their performance,” he said. “Moreover, do not waste scarce capitals on non-Olympics sports.”

He suggested that instead of sending athletes to foreign countries for training, the authorities should hire foreign coaches, identify talented youngsters and invest heavily in them.

The PSF official stated that the next Olympics is just three years away, in 2024, thus athletes will have to start competing in the qualification rounds within a year.

“If we take drastic measures now and keep quarterly plans, we might be able to see some results in the next competition.”

AFP President Sahi said that federations have to chalk out a strategy for the next 10 to 12 years.

“I have kids lined up who can represent Pakistan in the next two to three Olympics,” he said. “We are investing in them and we are hopeful for better results.”

 

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