Feature: Pakistan aims to see rise of "unconventional sports" under CPEC in future

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, December 24, 2020
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by Misbah Saba Malik, Ali Jaswal

ISLAMABAD, Dec. 24 (Xinhua) -- The outbreak of COVID-19 in Pakistan has affected all academic and cultural activities, but sports remained worst-hit as most local and national level sports were either cancelled or postponed since March when the government initiated nationwide restrictions to contain the disease.

In such a grim situation, Pakistani sports officials and sportspeople believe that the sports sector, which is not given much attention in the country despite having a good scope in the world, may get a boom if it is developed and uplifted under the framework of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

"In Pakistan, athletics, gymnastics, racket sports, ice and water sports are not given much attention and are considered unconventional sports because cricket is the only game which people know and love to play, due to which other sports are greatly neglected. Unfortunately there is a lack of champions in Pakistan because despite immense talent sportsmen are not given the right direction, support and encouragement to excel," Nasrullah Rana, director of Punjab Sports Board, told Xinhua.

He said that China has top sportsmen and one of the best sports facilities in the world and Pakistan can take help and assistance from Chinese coaches, fitness experts and sportsmen to flourish its sports sector.

"During the pandemic, many people have realized how fitness is important for human health because the people who were physically active and had a good immune system defeated the disease in a much better and quicker way than those who were leading an unhealthy lifestyle. I can foresee an interest for gymnastics and athletics among Pakistanis after the pandemic because during the last few months we have observed that followers of online fitness experts and athletes have greatly increased on social media," he said.

To help Pakistan uplift its sports sector, China is already making its contribution by providing fully-funded scholarships in sports sciences to Pakistani students to help them serve their country in developing sports system after being back.

Rana Muhammad Ashraf is one of the many students who are studying in China on sports scholarship. As a resident of a remote area of the country's east Punjab province, Ashraf has seen a big change in his life when he got admission in Beijing Sports University.

"I'm doing my PHD in sports sciences from Beijing Sports University, I did not have enough resources to support my dream of higher education in sports in Pakistan, and China gave me an opportunity to fulfill it. I was startled when I joined the university because of the quality of education and vast sports labs they have in China whereas in Pakistan we have neither of them."

He said that he has dozens of ideas to promote sports in his hometown and in the country when he will come back to Pakistan after completing his studies and will play his part in promotion of the sports on the basis of the experience he had in China.

Pakistani officials have also expressed their desire to tap the potential of CPEC in the field of sports to encourage the country's youth to take part in it.

President of the country's sports board Fehmida Mirza said earlier this year that they will invite Chinese sports experts to ameliorate the sports facilities before the start of the South Asian Games next year, as a part of sports diplomacy to bring both nations more close to each other.

"Through sports diplomacy Pakistan and China can start exchange programs for athletes and coaches. These initiatives should be incorporated in CPEC Phase-II. These initiatives will further enhance people to people relations of both the countries," she said.

Pakistan has a lot of raw talent in the field of sports, but due to lack of patronage, it gets wasted and fails to get its due acknowledgement in the country and the world. Such talent is in the search of a platform which may enable it to get recognition, and CPEC which is touted as a "game-changer" for Pakistan is a silver lining for it.

Farhan Ayub, a Pakistani self-taught sportsman who broke 21 Guinness World Records in different categories including kick-ups, no handed kick-ups, break-dance, helicopter spin, spoons twisted and balloon burst among others wishes to perform in China to break these records again to get recognition.

"I am from a very poor family. My father died when I was just two months old. I had no financial support. I supported myself, did ordinary jobs. Plus, I continued the studies and I did my training myself and continued to progress in it," he said, adding that during a recent travel in China-funded Orange Line train, the thought stuck his mind that if China is supporting Pakistan in uplifting different sectors under CPEC, sports can also be included in it.

"I am of the view that China-Pakistan friendship is already very strong and it could further get more strength. CPEC is not just for the business community. I see CPEC as an opportunity for the sportsmen. Chinese sportsmen could come here and Pakistani sportspeople could go there. So CPEC could become a huge opportunity for the sportsmen also."

Unlike China, sports is not a "brand" in Pakistan, and sportspeople do not earn much respect in Pakistan due to bleak scope and future of the players in the country. In such a situation, including initiatives to promote sports in CPEC may help the country having one of the highest youngest populations in the world.

Experts believe that the two countries may conduct a "CPEC Games" or "CPEC Tournament" to promote sports in Pakistan and help get Pakistani sportsmen recognition and financial independence. Enditem

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