Saturday, 21 March 2009

Pakistan's sports in exile

There is some political calm in Pakistan after the unecessary chaos and civil strife created by president Zardari's political adventurism in Punjab and his desire not to abide by the desires of the civil society in Pakistan to re-establish the judicial superiority over dictatorial power setup. With the return of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and the political activists back in their drawing rooms one can now focus on the future, or lack of it, of sports in Pakistan.

Recent attacks on Sri Lankan cricket team have highlighted the fragility of security situation in Pakistan in specific and the Indian subcontinent in general. Face of terrorism has changed since the cowardly attacks in Islamabad, Mumbai and Lahore. New methods adapted by well trained terrorists have made it easier for them to strike any where with deadly effect. Though the immediate impact of attacks in Lahore is on future of all kinds of sports in Pakistan but in reality the face of sports across the world will change. The day attacks happened in Lahore reverbrations of Munich Olympics were felt again. Football world cup in South Africa and London Olympics, though years away, will not be the same now. Terrorism is striking at the heart of sports, what has been and could be the best tool for international cultural relations. At a time when the world should be standing united to tackle this international menace, there are those who are trying to make Pakistan an international sporting pariah - another example of collective punishment being inflicted on a nation for the crimes of a few stateless and mindless criminals. Reminders of Gaza - anyone! but on a different scale.

Matters have been made worse for any kind of international sports in Pakistan. Most of the immediate impact has been felt by cricket fans of Pakistan. Visit by Sri Lankan team was expected to revive the confidence in security situation in Pakistan but ended up destroying it completely. Australia, New Zealand, and Indian cricket teams have refused to travel to Pakistan over the last two years. Any hopes for an international team visiting the country for at least next five years are completely gone.

It is not only cricket, though, that has suffered due to security concerns. Hockey, the second most popular sport has also faced the same situation. Champions Trophy in 2007 was moved away from Pakistan due to similar concerns. Foreign sports people of all backgrounds are refusing to travel to Pakistan. Pakistan Football Association couldn't recruit a Hungarian as a national coach because he refused to work in Pakistan in worsening security situation.

With cricket, at least, there is some hope that Pakistan can choose to play in UAE and England as home grounds. Large cricket loving expatriat populations in these places provide an ideal alternative to home crowds and grounds. This is provided that out of any mis-founded partriotism the decision makers in Pakistan's cricket establishment do not carry on trying to make a case for foreign teams to visit Pakistan - a highly improbable scenario. Note that Bangaladesh cancelled a visit by Pakistan cricket team to Bangladesh out of security concerns. Pakistan's priority should be to make sure that Pakistani sports people do not fall behind in opportunities to compete at international level even if it means more international travel and no international competition at home. While doing this it is vital to focus on revisit and develop local sports infrastructure - perhaps its time for government to bury the hatchet and ask for Imran Khan's help.


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  2. Pakistan had a bad impression on all over the world and it can be said also on pakistani people and Government should take it under control all the situations.
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