Pakistan hockey team’s Olympic campaign all but ended on Tuesday, when they were handed a 7-0 thrashing at the hands of World and Olympic defending champions Australia. They play South Korea for a seventh-position classification match on Thursday after failing to make it to the semi-finals.
Besides hockey, Pakistan had representation in athletics (men’s 100m and women’s 800m) as well as shooting (skeet) and swimming (men’s 100m freestyle and women’s 400m freestyle). Sprinter Liaqat Ali, despite having a better time than 15 of the 29 qualifiers, failed to qualify for the main round of the 100m sprint and was hence unable to realize his dream of sprinting alongside the likes of Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell. Swimmers Anum Banday and Israr Hussain, meanwhile, were also disappointing in their heats as they failed to progress.
Skeet shooter Khurram Inam was met with disappointment when he was unable to break into the next round.
Rabia Ashiq, who runs later today, will be aiming to better her personal best and reset the national record.
Realistically, Pakistan’s only chance of bagging a medal at the London Olympics was with the hockey team. A resilient start against Spain, a good win over Argentina and an exciting fightback against South Africa had raised the hopes of the nation and brought out many a hockey fan from deep slumber. Reality checks were handed when they played hosts Great Britain and then the mighty Australians.
While the losses were very painful for fans of the Greenshirts, the ensuing backlash and relentless criticism too, was unwelcome. The on-field display showed a marked difference in the quality and preparations of both sides but it is an unfair call to lay all criticism with the players.
The organisers, who are quick to claim the responsibility when the team does well, are not so swift in taking the blame for lack of success and glory. The players have been embroiled in fiascos involving bans, fines and then re-selection into the national team after a young and inexperienced side was unable to impress at the Azlan Shah Cup.
It is imperative that the officials in the Sports Ministry and the Pakistan Olympic Association – who have on-going issues of their own – be held accountable for the deteriorating state of the national game and other sports. While high-ranking officials and big corporations pump money into cricket and make as yet futile attempts to bring international players to Pakistan, there remains little interest to revive the status of hockey and other sports.
What steps should the government take to improve the state of the national game?
Will complete overhauls of managements and sports bodies help?
Should the players be the only ones blamed for losses?
Is it right to blame the players for the hockey losses in the Olympic Games?
Dawn.com invites its readers to share their opinions and suggestions…