Is cricket the beginning and end for Pakistan?
Our country, Pakistan is blessed with some amazing talent. We have had some true legends in almost every field, and sports is no exception. Who can forget the great Jehangir Khan and Janshair Khan? The leadership of Imran khan, that legendary duo of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis? That sixer from Javed Miandad and the master of the penalty corners, Sohail Abbas.
Unfortunately however, sports here in Pakistan have been dominated by one and one only, cricket. I’ll try to prove this statement with some examples and facts that support my argument about how this sport is getting the lion’s share in Pakistan.
The head of the state in Pakistan, yes yes, the President of Pakistan, is also the Patron in Chief of cricket in Pakistan.
Well, this was one of the first reasons that clearly support the fact that cricket dominates the sports sphere here.
The budget announced by the PCB for the year 2012-13 reportedly amounts to a staggering Rs700 million. Whereas, the Pakistan Hockey Federation’s budget was approximately Rs460 million and the Pakistan Football Federation’s budget amounted to an even lower figure.
Being avidly interested in sports, it is highly disappointing to note that I have never seen a local TV channel broadcasting a Pakistani football match, nor have I seen a local tennis tournament aired here.
For Pakistan, it seems the day starts and ends with cricket.
Although hockey is the national sport, with the amount of hype appropriated to cricket, one would definitely have to second guess it.
For the perfect marketing strategy, all the big brands also choose cricket. Pepsi over the years and recently even Mobilink have stepped up their campaigns with cricket hype, but have you ever seen such big brands support our football or hockey teams?
I’m sure we all have the answer to that, but to spell it out, sadly the answer is a no.
To be perfectly honest, the Pakistani football team is ranked 177th worldwide. What more would you expect from a federation that is allotted an annual budget of Rs5 million (approximately $90,041.50) a year, a footballer’s weekly wage abroad?
The grass root level is dismantled here and it is very difficult for these athletes to step up and improve themselves.
Last week, I had the opportunity of playing football at the Peoples’ Stadium, in Lyari, Karachi.
As I was heading towards the stadium, I was stunned to see the quality of football the youth there could play. Wearing yellow jerseys of the Brazilian national team, they left me in absolute shock when I saw their skills and trickery.
So strong physically, so quick and skilful; their ‘never quit’ attitude was clearly evident in each strike they made. What these young boys have is everything it would take to be stars. Unfortunately, those immaculate skills and ability are fated to remain hobbies because they are not nurtured into, what could be, the perfect profession.
The Pakistan Tennis Federation, on the other hand, actually has an athlete that is currently playing at the top level; Aisamul Haq. Haq, being at the top, once admitted that he wasn’t happy with the level of coaching and training facilities in Pakistan.
This shows how much a sport can suffer if it is ignored completely.
Hockey, our national sport has suffered a lot in this preference of one-sport-over-the-other debacle. I mean let’s be fair here, people in Pakistan aren’t even educated in the basics of the game!
Why, you ask?
It’s simple. People aren’t informed about it.
How many people know that Sohail Abbas is our all time top scorer?
Unfortunately, very few.
Now on the other hand, had this been a question on cricket and its players, most of us would have had the correct answer on the tip of our tongues. Due to the severe lack of coverage and ignorance, the sport has suffered tremendously.
Spain, a much smaller country in terms of size as well as population, has a rock solid system. Whatever sport their athletes choose to compete in, they excel. Be it football, hockey, tennis, basketball or any other, they have focused on every single sport and have done whatever they could to strengthen sports from the grass root level.
Pakistan, should take Spain as its model for sports. We should try and focus on every single sport, rather than putting all our eggs in one basket. Diversifying a bit and strengthening the basics would help all the different sports. Sports that intellectually we are equipped to play, but lack sufficient resources, budget and facilities. We need to create better coaching facilities; more grounds, systems to extract hidden talents and lastly, we need to give each sport its due time in the limelight.
I don’t see anything good, with regards to sports, coming our way unless we sort these issues out. It’s never too late. Cricket has a lot of history attached to Pakistan, but why do we act as though just one sport is played in the world? There are many others, and its high time we realise that. We need to enhance our capabilities in other sports as well and improve them from the bottom up. If we get a hang of the other games out there, Pakistan has the ability to become a legendary sporting nation.
We can make history in every sport instead of just one!
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.