New Delhi: Twenty-one-year-old Pakistani weightlifter Talha Talib nearly made history at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. But what is really upsetting Pakistanis these days is the company they are in at Tokyo. Like Panama and Mozambique, Pakistan has also sent just 10 athletes to the Olympics this year.
It is higher than their seven-member team that went to the Rio games in 2016, but just a wee bit.
Panama has 43 lakh people and Mozambique 3.23 crore, far less than that of Pakistan’s 22.56 crore. In comparison, countries like Namibia, Uruguay, Cameroon, Cyprus, Ghana, and Angola have sent more athletes.
As Pakistani fans rejoiced at Talib’s feat, who stood fifth in the 67 kg men’s weightlifting contest, many are also berating the chronic neglect of sports and the obsession with cricket.
‘Help athletes’ appeal
Pakistani cricketer Shadab Khan urged sponsors to help athletes like Talib.
Pakistan is proud of Talha Talib. Urge sponsors and sports administration to help athletes like Talha, they have the potential to bring home Olympic medals and make Pakistan proud if given the facilities and financial support. #SupportAthletes #OlympicGames pic.twitter.com/Hp4TryjwPC
— Shadab Khan (@76Shadabkhan) July 25, 2021
Javeria Khan, an all-rounder from Pakistan women’s cricket team, said Talib has already made the country proud.
Win or lose, you have already made Pakistan proud.
— Javeria Khan (@ImJaveria) July 25, 2021
Social media was abuzz with people who spoke about the lack of training programmes, how cricket gets special treatment and when Pakistan won its last Olympic medal — a bronze in 1992 by the hockey team. This is the second consecutive games when the hockey team has failed to qualify.
Just a reminder: PSB didn’t organise any single camp for weightlifters in last three years. Talha wasn’t provided any special training program even after his qualification. He is in #Tokyo2020 without a coach as president of PWF had appointed himself as an official with athlete. https://t.co/FFvOYqIFif
— Faizan Lakhani (@faizanlakhani) July 25, 2021
Talha Talib super boy!!! You have made the whole Pakistan 🇵🇰 proud. Shabash! It’s no small feat given how this sports is neglected in 🇵🇰 as compared to cricket. Zero facilities yet a great achievement. Pakistan must welcome you like a hero and invest! #weightlifting #Tokyo2020
— Gharidah Farooqi (@GFarooqi) July 25, 2021
BTW Talha Talib is the first Pakistani weightlifter to make the cut for the Olympics since 1976 🤯🤯🤯. Pakistan should be proud of him.
— Rehan Ulhaq (@Rehan_ulhaq) July 25, 2021
Cricket author at ESPN, Danyal Rasool shared “a rather unflattering sports stat” on Twitter.
The Olympic flag parade reminds me of a rather unflattering sports stat.
Every Olympics since 1996, Pakistan has been the most populous nation not to win a single Olympic medal. #Olympics2021
— Danyal Rasool (@Danny61000) July 23, 2021
Apart from Talib, Pakistan has sent sprinter Najma Parveen and javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem; badminton player Mahoor Shahzad; Judoka Hussain Shah; shooters Muhammad Khalil Akhtar, Ghulam Mustafa Bashir and Gulfam Joseph; and swimmers Muhammad Haseeb Tariq and Bisma Khan.
Cricketer Imran Nazir did not hold back as he expressed his disappointment regarding the decline of sports in Pakistan.
Since everyone blaming institutions in control of sports in 🇵🇰, how many ppl here tk responsibility of supporting athletes in our country? Mention any athlete who needs financial assistance, let’s see if any group or individual can help them achieve their dreams. RT#Olympics
— Imran Nazir (@realimrannazir4) July 25, 2021
Others hit out at Lt Gen (retd) Syed Arif Hasan, who has remained president of the Pakistan Olympics Association for nearly two decades without ensuring a medal.
Pakistan population 220m, Olympics players squad 10, officials 10.
No medal is in sight.
Lt Gen (R) Syed Arif Hasan President Pakistan Olympics Assoc for almost 20yrs.
What can be future of sports when constructing Nat’l Sports City Nwl for training future Olympians is a crime.
— Ahsan Iqbal (@betterpakistan) July 24, 2021
Sad state of sports in Pakistan ..No Olympic medal for so many years.. pic.twitter.com/3SAj147ZIC
— Waseem Abbasi (@Wabbasi007) July 25, 2021
Poor sports budget
The 2016 Olympics was Pakistan’s worst ever performance to date, with the smallest contingent and no medal to their name. “Each time, there has been a hue and cry over the dismal state of affairs but the fact is that Pakistan continue[s] to nosedive further as time passes and one isn’t even sure if they have hit their lowest point yet,” a 2016 editorial in Pakistani daily Express Tribune argued.
Reasons for Pakistan’s non-performance at the Olympics vary from an increasing disinterest in hockey, a game that has largely contributed to its medals tally at Olympics, to the country’s socio-economic conditions. With just two new schemes worth Rs 595 million, sports found little mention in the 2020-2021 financial budget.
Views are personal.
(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)