Miracles can still happen. But they are unlikely to.
In a few hours (at 6PM Beijing time) Pakistan’s field hockey team will play its fourth qualifying game against South Africa. Pakistan can and should win this game (South Africa is rated at the bottom of the teams that have qualified for Beijing). But as important will be the results of the Australia v. Netherlands match, also to be played today at 8.30PM Beijing time. If Australia beats the Netherlands (possible) and – and this is very important - Pakistan then also beats the Netherlands (quite unlikely) and ends up with a goal average better than the Netherlands then Pakistan may – and, yes, its is still a may - have a chance to slide into the semi-finals (things will also depend of what Great Britain does in its remaining games). Had we not lost our first game to Great Britain we might have had a realistic chance; but we did not.
[UPDATE: Pakistan did defeat South Africa, 3-1, but the Australia-Netherlands game ended in a draw which means they have both now moved into the Semi-Finals, and Pakistan has not.]
As it turns out, then, it will take more than just a miracle now for Pakistan to medal at Beijing.
(AFP Photo: From Left -Iraq’s Dana Abdulrazak, France’s Christine Arron, Pakistan’s Sadaf Siddiqui, Brazil’s Lucimar de Moura, Lauryn Williams of the US and Tuvalu’s Asenate Manoa during the women’s 100m heat at the 2008 Beijing Olympics on August 16, 2008.
(AFP Photo: From Left – Puerto Rico’s Hector Cotto Gonzalez, Czech Republic’s Petr Svoboda, Colombian Paulo Villar, Pakistan’s Abdul Rashid, and Barbados’s Ryan Brathwaite during the men’s 110m hurdles heat at the 2008 Beijing Olympics on August 18, 2008.
But let us not be too harsh on the Pakistan Olympic squad. Winning is great. But participation also matters. And we have not been paying enough attention to Pakistani athletes, especially those not playing hockey, who have actually been participating at Beijing. So, here is a summary of what they have been up to. We salute them for their participation. Cheer them on for the effort they have put in. And look forward to better placements next time. (One of the following, Abdul Rashid, will be participating in the 110m hurdles at 311.26AM Beijing Time, Monday):
08.10.2008 – 25 years old Siddique Umar participated in the Men’s M 10m Air Rifle (60 shots). With a score of 578.0 he finished 48th.
08.13.2008 – 25 years old Adil Baig participated in Heat 5 of the Men’s 50m swimming qualifier. With a time of 25.66 seconds he finished 7th in his heat and overall 74th in the qualifiers.
08.14.2008 – 18 years old Kiran Khan participated in Heat 4 of the Women’s 50m swimming qualifier. With a time of 29.84 seconds she finished 6th in her heat and overall 69th in the qualifiers.
08.15.2008 – 22 years old Sadaf Siddiqui participated in Heat 2 of the Women’s 100m Round 1 Heat 2. With a time of 12.41 seconds she finished 7th in her heat. She did not qualify for next round.
08.16.2008 – 25 years old Siddique Umar participated in the Men’s 50m Free Rifle 3 positions (3×40 shots). With a score of 1116.0 he finished 49th.
08.18.2008 – 29 years old Abdul Rashid participated in the Men’s 110m Hurdles Round 1, Heat 3. With a time of 11.26 seconds he finished 8th amongst 8 in his heat.
Not unexpectedly, it is ever more clear that Pakistan’s Olympic 2008 contingent is likely to return from Beijing without any medals. Indeed, Pakistan has not won a medal since the 1992 Barcelona games (Bronze in Hockey). The question, then, is what could we do to change this dry spell. Not just in hockey but in other sports?
Squash legend Jehangir Khan, who now leads the World Squash Federation (WSF) is right now trying to make Squash an Olympics sport for the 2016 Games. He is quite likely to succeed. But given Pakistan’s recent squash performance it is not certain that this will ensure us a medal in 2016.
Cricket, in its 20-20 variant, could also make it to the Olympics sometime soon. Cricket was actually contested in the 1900 Olympics, but only two countries participated. That would likely make us competitive. But what about existing sports? If there was the will and the resources what could one do to make Pakistan show up in the medal tables?
What specific steps would you take if you were made the sports czar of Pakistan with teh goal of ensuring that Pakistan appears in the medal table by 2016. What sports would you focus on? Why? How?
Do please share ideas. Maybe, just maybe, someone out there may be listening.