Boxing, a sport widely played and followed in Pakistan, is on the canvas. Pakistani boxers failed to seal a berth at the London Olympics despite featuring in two qualifying events. The federation’s dependence on UK-based boxers backfired when Haroon Khan and Haider Riaz failed to take Pakistan boxing to London or win any laurels for the country.
While former world champion Amir Khan’s willingness to help local boxers might have given the federation and the athletes a ray of hope, the tussle between the Pakistan Boxing Federation’s (PBF) bigwigs — its president and secretary — has shaken the sport’s very foundations in the country. In the aftermath of the qualifying debacle, PBF President Doda Khan Bhutto claimed that secretary Akram Khan accepted bribes to include undeserving individuals in the national squad, as well as being involved in human trafficking. Akram, meanwhile, accused his president of misappropriating funds amounting to Rs15 million that were released by the Pakistan Sports Board for the Olympics preparation.
The pair looked to settle scores in the general body meeting held on June 10, but, despite the exchange of even more accusations, the matter is far from being resolved. While the struggle for virtue continued, a training camp for boxers was put on hold and some PBF officials still wait for their salaries that have not been paid for three months.
Pakistan has not featured in Olympics boxing since 2004, capturing its only medal in 1986 when Hussain Shah brought home a bronze. In a similar manner to various other sports federations in Pakistan, political appointments, lack of harmony among officials and misuse of funds keep tugging the athletes away from glory. Talent and ambition exist aplenty, but the misguided hands behind them result in agony. While all this takes place, the fans sit in anticipation, yearning to see Pakistan dominate global arenas the way it used to before the turn of the century.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 13th, 2012.
More in EditorialMehdi Hassan (1927-2012)