Infighting among national sports officials and poor preparations made sure that Pakistan would fail to make their presence felt in the Commonwealth Games
Experienced boxer Mohammad Waseem was scheduled to face Andrew Moloney of Australia in his flyweight final on Saturday. If he failed to win that fight Pakistan would finish with three silvers and one bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games which will conclude in Glasgow on Sunday (today).
This would be the fourth time in the history of the prestigious event when Pakistan would return from Commonwealth Games without a gold medal in its pocket. But much is expected from the Quetta-born Waseem, who has made remarkable achievement without any proper preparation.
In 1990, 1994 and 1998 editions Pakistan had also not been able to win any gold medal in the spectacle.
In Glasgow, it was Shah Hussain who won the silver medal in judo in the -100kg weight category while Qamar Abbas claimed the other silver in the 74kg in wrestling. Azhar Hussain secured bronze in the 57kg wrestling competitions while Waseem’s ultimate position had not yet been decided.
Japan-based Shah Hussain was beaten by Euan Burton of Scotland in the final. He edged Christopher George of Trinidad and Tobago in the round-of-16 bout before defeating Duke Didier of Australia in the quarter-final. Shah then whacked Tim Slyfield of New Zealand in the semi-final to set up title clash with the 35-year old Burton where the latter prevailed. Shah is the son of former Pakistan’s boxing great and the 1988 Seoul Olympics bronze medallist Hussain Shah, who is training professional boxers in Japan. Shah, who is ranked 75th in the world, also has a chance to make a cut for the 2016 Rio Olympics if participated in all the qualifying rounds.
Due to infighting in the sports fraternity, Shah was on the verge of missing out on a Commonwealth Games berth as his entry was not sent in time. The Arif Hasan-led POA sent his entry on the request of Shah Hussain’s father Hussain Shah without the concurrent approval of the Pakistan Judo Federation (PJF) which was backing Akram Sahi-led POA.
At one stage, Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) was not in a position to finance Shah’s trip to Glasgow. The Board only sent an air ticket to Shah after the PJF wrote a letter to it that it had no objection over the participation of Shah in the Commonwealth Games. And so, luckily, Shah proceeded to Scotland and gifted Pakistan with a silver medal. Shah was the only judoka who was part of the Pakistan’s contingent in Glasgow.
In wrestling, Pakistan has a solid history in the Commonwealth Games. Even in the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, Azhar Hussain and Mohammad Inam had won gold medals for the country in the free-style wrestling. Azhar had even lifted silver in the Greco-Roman style of that event. But this time, the story is different in Glasgow for the national wrestlers as both these experienced players failed to defend their titles.
Azhar finished with the bronze after he defeated Masunyane of South Africa in the 57kg bronze medal outing. And for Inam, it was a disappointing tour as he will return empty-handed after he lost to Pawar Kumar of India in the bronze medal outing on Thursday night.
After outclassing Ekanayaka Mudiyans of Sri Lanka in the 86kg round of 16, Inam lost to Tamerlan Tagziev of Canada in the quarter-final. He then defeated Ali Abdo of Australia in the repechage bout to set up a bronze medal clash with Kumar.
Before leaving for Glasgow, both Azhar and Inam had ruled out their medal chances due to poor preparation. And they were right. For the last couple of years, they were not provided international exposure due to infighting between the warring factions and lack of state funding. It was only in the end when the PSB held wrestling camp in Islamabad that at least enabled them to make some prepartion for the Glasgow affair. Azhar Hussain, who belongs to Muzaffargarh, trained with his squad for a week only because he had not been released by Army. The other six wrestlers which were part of the Pakistan’s squad in Glasgow belong to WAPDA.
It was the 24-year old Qamar Abbas who succeeded up to a certain extent by winning silver in wrestling. Qamar, who reached the 74kg final with a bang, found the two-time Olympic bronze medallist Sushil Kumar of India too tough in the title clash. Faisalabad-born Qamar had beaten Katea Tebitara of Solomon Island in the round of 16 and had whacked David Galea of Malta in the quarter-finals. He then outgunned Mike Grundy of England in the semi-final to set summit clash with Sushil. The other wrestlers Zaman Anwar, Umair Tariq, Mohammad Salman and Abdul Wahab failed to make their presence felt.
“I am satisfied with what we have achieved without any solid preparation,” Pakistan Wrestling Federation’s (PWF) president Chaudhry Mohammad Asghar told ‘The News on Sunday’ from Glasgow.
In weightlifting, Pakistan had fielded five weightlifters but it was Mohammad Shahzad from Faisalabad who narrowly missed the victory stand after he finished fourth in the 56kg weight category competitions. Haroon Shoukat was the other who looked good and ended at the seventh spot out of 12 competitors in the 105kg weight category. Haider Ali, Habib Asghar and Abu Sufyan were far from being impressive.
In swimming, national swimmers only competed with themselves and finished at the bottom in their respective heats.
However, Dubai-based Lianna Swan looked impressive of the nine-member lot who according to information not only set two national records but also scored personal best in one of her five events in which the 17-year old competed.
The Bahraini-born Hamilton Aquatics and Jumairah College student re-set her existing national record in the 50 metre breaststroke in a time of 35.72 on Thursday, finishing third out of eight swimmers in heat two and 24th out of 35 competitors overall. She then followed it up with a personal best in the 50 metre freestyle on Friday with a time of 29.10 to finish sixth out of eight swimmers in heat three and 45th out of 57 overall.
On Sunday, she started the first of three races by resetting another of her own national records in the 100 metre freestyle in a time of 1:03.32 to finish sixth out of eight swimmers and 36th out of 45 overall.
Five out of the nine-member Pakistan swimming lot that competed in Glasgow belong to two families. England-based Anum Bandey and her brother Haris Bandey and the Lahore-based Kiran Khan, her 12-year old sister Bisma Khan, who made her international debut, and their brother Sikandar Khan were part of the contingent. It leaves a question mark on the contribution of Pakistan Swimming Federation (PSF) in the development of swimming in the country.
In boxing, Waseem was the only one to impress. Aamir Khan, Asif Hasan, Ali Ahmad, Mohibullah and Nadir Baloch lost their opening bouts.
“I have not seen Asif Hasan playing boxing at any level for the last so many years,” a senior boxing official Ali Akbar Shah told TNS.
Asif was knocked out by Steven Donnelly of Northern Ireland in the 69kg round of 32 fight on July 25.
In table tennis and badminton, Pakistan’s participation was a mere a formality. However, the positive in table tennis was that Pakistan had fielded four youngsters including Mohammad Rameez, Tabish Khursheed, Farwa Babar and Abeera Sheikh who might have learned a lot in Glasgow.
In badminton, Hafiz Irfan Bhatti and Palwasha Basheer took part and they failed to advance beyond the round of 32 in the men’s singles, women’s singles and mixed doubles.
The country’s top badminton player Murad Ali of National Bank was an automatic choice for Glasgow but he was ignored due to his association with the badminton federation led by former federal minister Nazar Gondal.
Murad has also been overlooked for the Asian Games. Pakistan also failed to deliver in shooting, lawn bowls and gymnastics. In lawn bowles the country made their debut. Lawn bowls entries had been sent by the Arif Hasan-led POA after the Glasgow-based trio of Mohammad Shehzad, Muzahir Ali Shan and Mohammad Ayub Qureshi had approached Arif Hasan that they wanted to participate in the Commonwealth Games.
The fourth player, who was part of the Pakistan’s bowling team in Glasgow, was Faisalabad-based Maqsood Waseem Khan, who is also the secretary of the Pakistan Lawn Bowls Federation which is neither affiliated with the PSB nor with the POA. Swabi-born Shahzad, who is a PhD student at the University of Glasgow, represented Pakistan in the men’s singles but lost all his group matches while the other three lawn bowlers failed to click in the men’s triples.
Instead of fielding Glasgow-based overage players in lawn bowls the federation should have opted to send Pakistan-grown talent to Glasgow.
The athletics and cycling squads could not proceed to Glasgow because their entries had been sent without the concurrent approval of their respective federations affiliated with the international federations. In spite of it, the athletes were set to participate but they were not given NOC by their department WAPDA. And cyclists’ participation in Glasgow was impossible without getting permission from the legal Pakistan Cycling Federation (PCF) which is not recognised by the Arif Hasan-led POA despite its affiliation with the international cycling governing body (UCI). But surprisingly, the officials of both these squads enjoyed chilly days in Glasgow.
Pakistan also missed hockey and squash events in Glasgow because of the same dispute which has inflicted an unprecedented damage on the country’s sports.
The below-par performance in Glasgow wasn’t unexpected. During the last couple of years the national athletes had been deprived of international exposure and quality training due to infighting between PSB and POA over the implementation of the national sports policy.
What our athletes have achieved in Glasgow should be appreciated. The athletes should not be blamed. The authorities should blame themselves for what their players have achieved in Glasgow because they all were part of the whole drama that damaged the country’s sports beyond repair.
Recently, the government opted to recognise Arif Hasan-led POA after establishing viable working relationship with the International Olympic Association (IOC) but its step was stayed by the Lahore High Court (LHC) on the petition filed by the Akram Sahi-led POA. The ultimate decision is yet to come.
Pakistan have to field a relatively bigger contingent in the Asian Games to be held in South Korea from September 19 to October 4. And for that right selection without any discrimination should be ensured so that the country could make its presence felt on that big stage.
As per the IOC instructions, Arif Hasan-led POA is expected to hold its general body meeting ahead of the Asiad. And keeping in view the flawed sports system in Pakistan, the general body should propose a tenure-restriction clause in the NOC constitution for its top office-bearers. It will make the NOC a more vibrant organisation in future and will end the monopoly of a few people over the top posts.