Other than cricket, Pakistan is failing at every sport that it excelled at in the past

Published: November 14, 2017

Muhammad Waseem of Pakistan reacts against Andrew Moloney of Australia in the Men's Fly (52kg) Final, at SSE Hydro, during day ten of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, on August 2, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland. PHOTO: GETTY

Sports in Pakistan – which have always had a turbulent history – hit a new low recently when Muhammad Waseem, the sole international boxer we have at the moment, declared that his upcoming fight might be the very last time he would be representing Pakistan.

It is indeed a sad day for an already sports-deprived country when top talent is forced to change teams due to years of constant neglect. Waseem wouldn’t even be the first person in the history of his sport to do so. He is following in the footsteps of Syed Hussain Shah, who won a bronze medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, the only one Pakistan has won for boxing. Shah too left Pakistan for a better future in Japan. The talent and experience that could and should have been used to hone future local prospects, was instead utilised by the Japanese.

But can we really blame the pugilist for this?

I don’t think so.

It’s not just boxing – we are failing at every single sport, other than cricket, that we excelled at in the past.

If the Olympics are a benchmark to gauge the position of a country with respect to sports, then the situation appears to be extremely bleak. With seven representatives from a population of over 198 million – meaning one athlete from every 27 million – Pakistan sent its smallest-ever Olympics contingent in the 2016 Summer Olympics, comprising more officials than athletes. This is the size of the contingent of a country with the seventh largest population in the world?

Ghulam Mustafa Bashir carries the flag of Pakistan during the opening ceremony for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: AP

The Cook Islands, with a population of over 17,000, had nine participants – that is, almost one Olympic athlete per 1,800 citizens. Jamaica had 63 athletes with a population of only 2.8 million, while many other countries with populations of less than 10 million had Olympic contingents bigger than ours. It was equally embarrassing that even war-torn Iraq had more than 20 athletes.

What hurts even more is the fact that none of our seven athletes even qualified. All players were selected on the wild card basis – usually given to regressive and poor countries that fail to qualify for the Olympics – placing Pakistan in the same category as Afghanistan and Syria. The Pakistani squad did not win a single medal and returned empty-handed for the fifth consecutive time.

After the Olympic charade, an inquiry commission should have been established to come up with reasons as to why we failed so miserably. If it was any other country, the presidents of all sports federations would have been sacked, but when has our government placed any attention to any sport, except for cricket?

The government remains indifferent to the plight of any other sport in Pakistan. Sports in the country have been in decline for quite a while, and yet there has been no interest on the government’s part in reviving them. Quaid-e-Azam games may have been a beacon of light for aspiring athletes, before it became a victim to the politics between governing organisations. Even the national games, that happen every year and provide the only domestic platform to local athletes, have been postponed indefinitely.

However, the blame does not rest entirely with the government. Our obsession with cricket must be blamed as well. As a nation, our love for sports has never been balanced – we only care about cricket.

As a result, be it the government or the private sector, no one is interested in sponsoring athletes such as hockey players, boxers, tennis players or runners. When was the last time you saw a non-cricket player featuring in the commercial for any product? Lack of sponsorship is a major reason why talent like Waseem is forced to abandon this country for good.

If we really want to revive sports in Pakistan, our behaviour and attitude towards sports really needs to change. Only then will the government be forced to do something about the sports ordeal we are stuck in. Unless we show the same concern for other sports as we do for cricket, and start holding the sport governing bodies accountable for their actions, we can bid adieu to sports in Pakistan altogether.


Ahsan Zafeer

Ahsan Zafeer

The author is interested in politics, social issues and sports. He has a passion for writing and believes that issues can be resolved through discussion. He tweets as @AhsanZafeer (twitter.com/AhsanZafeer)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Yogi Berra

    Are you serious? Even in Cricket Pakistan is way down in the rankings. There is no sport I can think of in which Pakistan has any success any more. The reasons are ….grinding Poverty, lack of training avenues, poor diet, lack of killer instinct and inner confidence.
    But the writer is forgetting one essential thing. It is not the size of your population that decides the number of medals. It is the success of your economy that correlates strongly with sporting prowess. Many of the above mentioned things come due to funding and investment in sports which in a way related to economic reasons. The only exception is success of few African countries in track events due to genetic advantage and other monetary incentives. For example, Kenyan investment in Marathon training residential schools. Australia, Israel are small countries but way ahead of any south Asian or middle East countries in sports.Recommend

  • Muhammad Hayyan

    Pakistan is not failing in cricket!Recommend

  • Suchi Baat

    So going with your theory, how many sports men and women did Pakistan’s neighbor in the south with a billion+ population and growth rate above 5 % did produce.Recommend

  • MJ

    Mismanagement, nepotism, regionalism etc. are also to be blamed when talking about sports in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Amjad Hussain

    We did get some winners medals when we beat India in champions trophy 2017.Recommend

  • Omprakash

    You start counting, we are not ahead but progressing fast, Boxing, won the Asian championship 5th time, by whom no need to tell. Tennis you know how many grand slam Leander won, Saina Mirza, Badminton world top players are from India, Snooker hope you would have hear the name Sethi, world champion, Chess we produce world champion. Hockey we are improving and ranked 6th in world. Athletics we are producing many like Deepa. List is too long to tell dear Baat.Recommend

  • Yogi Berra

    Pakistan was thrashed by India in the first game. So one win and one loss. I would call it even. Next time Indian team is gonna thrash Pak team like they thrash wheat harvest in Punjab.Recommend

  • Yogi Berra

    Find out yourself. God has given you Google to play with. Use it for knowledge acquisition.Recommend

  • Hassan Mirza

    In fact Pakistan not only failing all the sports including Cricket where one match win 20 loose dead wickets and corruption is failing in cricket as well as Pakistan failing in every thing due to Corruption and not practically Doing any thing but talking and giving political statements for free.Recommend

  • abhi

    I think Pakistan is not doing very well in cricket as well.Recommend


    I am not much into sports but it is always (or used to be) a matter of pride to see Pakistan achieving laurels in a variety of sports. It was our identity in the world. I remember that when I was studying in the US in the early eighties, an American professor, during a class break struck a conversation with the students about international sports. He started out with squash (known as racquet ball in the US) and, looking towards me, said that Pakistan’s Jehangir Khan was a top player. Before I could add something about Pakistan’s achievements in other sports, he “volunteered” that Pakistanis were world famous for their hockey, cricket, and tennis too! Sadly, today, most Americans won’t even count Pakistan at any level in any of these sports. In my humble opinion, it is due to corruption, greed, nepoitism, and bad politics (aren’t these words synonymous these days) that we are losing out in almost all sports, barring a few exceptions — actually flukes!Recommend