Though there was much rejoicing in Afghanistan that the country had secured one more medal in this year’s Olympic games than Pakistan, one bronze medal does not constitute a very impressive tally. Our own border regions did not secure a single medal.
In our recent past, there is living proof that, given the facilities, sportsmen from the border regions can reach the very top. The names of Roshan Khan, Qamar Zaman, Jehangir Khan and Janshera Khan ring out in the annals of the greatest squash champions of all time. If they can do it, why can’t others?
PACT Radio spoke to one of these former champions, Qamar Zaman, who now runs a squash academy in Peshawar. He spoke of the importance of promoting sports in the border regions, particularly amongst young people. “In the border regions we have natural champions, as many of them have strength. But if you want to produce world champions in our border regions then you have to provide them the facilities to play different sports.”
Zaman spoke of previous times, when Pakistan enjoyed more sporting success, particularly in squash, where many of the sporting champions were also of Pashtoon decent, such as Hashim Khan and Jahangir Khan. “I have visited so many foreign countries and once in Australia, during my lecture a person asked: why has Pakistan produced so many world champions? What is the reason? I replied, ‘Pakistan has produced seven world champions and we won world titles for 37 years. We run on a road, eat curry and drink Bara – tehsil of Khyber Agency – water.’”
In developed countries, many sportsmen are selected from grassroot level. Zaman instead suggests, “Here also, the government needs to select sportsmen from the school level and then give them proper training. The government’s involvement in these activities is very important.”
One way of selecting talent is through inter-school competitions. Zaman says, “Students that come to compete have natural talent. They have the talent, but need the support, because their study will be affected and here in our border areas, some youngsters are not even capable of buying sports shoes for themselves, so the government needs to help them.”
A lack of facilities has been cited as one of the key reasons to limiting sporting success, “In this country there are very little facilities for sportsmen and no proper arrangements made for them to practice.” Zaman believes that further incentives need to be provided by the government, “The government should make grounds in the border regions, and give scholarships to youngsters who have keen interest in sport. They should provide coaches to sportsmen to give them proper training and boost their abilities. Once the government provides these facilities, I am sure that even sportsmen from backward areas will win gold medals from all over the world.”
Commentators have spoken often about the rigorous training schedules of top athletes in preparation for their sports, Zaman believes that this is another area to be worked on. “Sportsmen need to practice for a minimum of five to six hours daily.” He cited the grueling training schedules of the Chinese preparing for the Olympics as an example to follow. “China win medals because of a proper training system.” With a proper training, and scholarships for young sportsmen, the same thing could happen here.
Despite the lack of facilities for young people, Zaman urged young people to continue trying in sports, “They should work hard even though there is a lack of facilities and always try to show that they want to win for their country.”
Although, the effort may be there from people, it is two ingredients that come together that help build champions, “Without spending a little money and hard work, it is impossible to win Olympic titles or gold medals.”