After watching hockey in the recently concluded Tokyo Olympics 2020, one thing that I found to be missing or rather very disappointing was the absence of Asian countries which used to occupy the centre stage in the 90s.
This time, even though both men and women Indian hockey team did put up a great fight, but it surely must have missed its other co-Asian countries like its immediate neighbour, Pakistan who had a glorious past of being a hockey giant and having fierce competition with India for decades until the western world replaced both the giants from the centre stage.
It was until 1984 that both India and Pakistan were known to rule the hockey world and were unbeatable and undisputed kings but now the tables have turned in such a way that while Pakistan hockey team failed to qualify for two consecutive Olympics, Indian men hockey team had to wait for 41 years to grab its 12th Olympic medal.
When in 2018 the cricket legend and the only Pakistani captain to win a cricket world cup in 1992 against England in Melbourne, Australia, Imran Khan became the Prime Minister of Pakistan, there was a lot of hope and expectation not only among the local residents but also around the world that Pakistan would revive and uplift its lost glory in sports, considering his own illustrious career of 88 test matches, 126 innings with a best of 136 runs.
Khan started off as a right-arm fast bowler but soon took over the role of an all-rounder and played an invaluable role in catapulting Pakistani cricket team to its pinnacle of success and glory.
But, sadly the current scenario in the country is not very encouraging because even after being in power for more than 2 years, there has not much changed.
In fact, many want the sports legend turned Prime Minister to shift his attention to the development of sports and to put it before politics in order to regain lost glory of Pakistani sports.
The government definitely must have tried to devise policies and initiatives in the basic sports structure but the change has proved to be too slow to arrive.
The country is surely creating triumphs for itself in terms of its hard issues like defence or security but it is very important to note that success in soft issues like sports gives a country much earned respect as well as worldwide recognition.
Pakistan has been experiencing a drought of Olympic medals since 1992 Barcelona Olympic, that is 29 years and this time, only 10 players have qualified for Tokyo Olympics 2020.
If hockey is not the only instance, then the Pakistani cricket team has also allegedly suffered considerably due to lack of government support and planning.
It had to stop hosting test matches and also had to briefly face the suspension of international cricket for 10 long years that is since 2009 in the country due to disturbed security conditions.
Now, it actually seems like long lost tales of nail biting cricket matches between India and Pakistan which attracted thousands of audiences from all over the world.
Apart from popular sports like hockey or cricket, there is one more sport which was ruled by Pakistan and that is Squash.
From 1967 and until 1992, Pakistan had won 23 World Squash Team Open titles. The Pakistani squash icon Jahangir Khan holds the record for the longest winning streak as he remained unbeaten for five years from 1981 to 1986 and is also the youngest squash player ever to win the World Open Championship in 1981.
But since the 1998 defeat of another legendary Pakistani squash player and someone who remained unbeaten in claiming the top spot in world squash ranking for 13 years, Jansher Khan in the British Open final, the Pakistan squash seems to only go down the ladder and failed to continue being a dominant country in the squash world anymore.
As a global citizen who is greatly interested in the happenings all around the world and also as a passionate sports lover who has grown up hearing tales about sports heroes of our north-west neighbour, Pakistan, it is very unfortunate to see its gradual decline in person.
Even now in any international events, for example the recent javelin throw competition in Tokyo Olympics 2020, after rooting for India’s Neeraj Chopra, many of us, including Neeraj himself also rooted and were hopeful for Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem to at least win a silver, if not gold.
The very fact that two Asian sports persons were giving firm competition to the rest of the world players itself gave us a lot to take pride in.
By now it has become very evident that sports lovers from both India and Pakistan mutually respect each other’s achievements.
Another instance is when congratulatory messages from Pakistan flooded the social media praising the Indian men and women hockey team for their brave performances in the Tokyo Olympics.
Profitability in guns and arms will wield power and position but achievement in sports will ink a name in the hearts of everyone because sports do not build character, they reveal it.
Prime Minister Imran Khan along with President Vladimir Putin of Russia is one of the very few world leaders with an eminent sports background and hence what needs to be kept in mind is that this is the best time and opportunity for Pakistani sports to regain the honour and glory that was lost due to ravages of time and give the world community something to cherish and celebrate. Ritika Das Guwahati, Assam India.