15 things we hope for Pakistani sports in 2016
Given the action-packed events of the yesteryear in the sports scenario of Pakistan many of us have high hopes with what 2016 has in store for the sports fanatics. We are unable to curb our enthusiasm at the prospect of the following 15 things coming true in 2016.
1. Pakistan Cricket to stay clear of controversies
The Mohammad Amir saga, television squabbles, failed doping tests, contentious selections, and non-selections dominated the news in 2015. Hopefully the worst is behind us and the cricket will take centre stage again.
No team responded better to adversity than the Pakistan Cricket Team. If there is a silver lining then it is the hope that our players play like cornered tigers in the 2016 T20 World Cup. God knows the team needs this victory.
2. More Kaleemullahs
In 2003, Zesh Rehman became the first British-Asian to start a Premier League match. In the last 12 years Football’s popularity has exponentially grown in the country. All major cities now boast a professional, or semi-professional, football academy in Pakistan.
Last summer, Kaleemullah became the first Pakistani to sign a contract with a US Club. With PTV Sports regularly airing matches from the top European league, the hope is soon we will be cheering on more Pakistani players playing the magnificent game.
3. One Final Hurray for Aisam ul Haq
At 35, Aisam ul Haq is in the twilight of his career, which has been in a downward trajectory for the past couple of years. 2015 was a largely forgettable year for Aisam-ul-Haq.
As the biggest tennis player Pakistan has ever produced, and seemingly little talent to take the mantle from him anytime soon, the nation needs to get behind the superstar and push him towards glory in 2016.
Also keep an eye on Ushna Suhail. She is on her way to becoming Pakistan’s next big tennis star. One hopes she realises her potential on the international stage.
4. Pakistan Super League (PSL) to be a resounding success
There are bound to be teething problems in Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB)’s venture into the lucrative T20 league format but despite all the off-field disputes and disagreements, we would like the league to be a spectacular, putting Pakistan cricket on the map for the right reasons.
Hopefully Pakistan will be able to gain enough goodwill from the competition to host future versions of the league in the country. The biggest hope for all Pakistani cricket fans would be for quality competitive international cricket to return to Pakistan.
5. The female teams to get institutional support
Despite the Pakistan female football and cricket teams achieving success, and ironically doing better than their male counterparts, there is little institutional and financial support afforded to the teams.
Our female teams are not taken as seriously as they should be, they get little coverage and few minutes of airtime.
Many players pay the costs for equipment from their own pockets, and athletes are not given central year-long contracts by the federations.
We would love to see the gender disparity come to an end in the sports scene starting from 2016.
6. Palwasha Bashir and Maria Toorpakay Wazir to get recognition
You cannot talk about female athletes in Pakistan, and not mention Palwasha Bashir or Maria Toorpakay. What Sania Mirza is to tennis in India, Palwasha is to badminton and the Maria is to squash in Pakistan.
Despite being a world class talent, Palwasha’s opportunities to play in international competitions have been few and far between. Maria Toorpakay on the other hand made the nation proud winning the Nash cup title for the second time in 2015.
It was heartening to see Pepsi recognise Palwasha Bashir as a national hero in the Chand Sitara campaign. One hopes they both get a chance to make the nation proud on the international stage in 2016.
7. Rio 2016
Pakistan’s record at the Olympics has been abysmal. The country has only ever won 10 Olympic medals, and eight of those were in hockey. We have not won a single medal for 14 years, ending up as the most populated country to not win a single medal in the last five Olympics.
Let’s hope we end our winless streak, and our boys and girls bring back some gold this time!
8. Bodybuilders to get state patronage
Pakistani body builders have been setting the world stage alight in the past couple of years. Atif Anwar won the Arnold Classic Body Building competition and Salman Ahmad won the title of Mr Musclemania in 2015.
Both athletes were able to achieve global success despite receiving little to no state support. The hard work and perseverance of our sporting heroes need to be recognised officially and the body builders need to be given all the tools necessary to compete at the very top.
9. PSL style ventures extended to other sports
In our cricket fuelled nation, other sports often get ignored. Fans of other sports hope that the PSL style ventures are also replicated for more sports. The hope is that all respective federations are able to bring together all media, advertising and financial stakeholders to create popular events for all sports in Pakistan, which are lucrative to both the sponsors and the athletes.
10. Pakistan Hockey to rise like a phoenix
Our national sport is in tatters, the only silver lining is that it cannot possibly go any lower than this; Pakistan hockey has officially hit rock bottom, failing to qualify for both the World Cup and the Olympics. A new management has been put in place in hopes to revive the sport, and the nation hopes that field hockey in Pakistan is able to rise from the ashes and soar again.
It will only take one victory against India for the entire nation to get into the groove to support the hockey team again!
11. We find our next big squash star
Pakistan is ranked a respectable eighth place in the World Squash rankings but for a country that has been spoiled by the talents of Jahangir Khan and Jansher Khan, the nation yearns for the number one ranking.
Despite producing two of the best talents the game has ever seen, Pakistan has been unable to produce a steady stream of squash champions. The hope is that 2016 will see a talent emerge that will reclaim the coveted number one spot for Pakistan in the world of squash.
12. The Shandur Polo Festival to happen
The Shandur Polo Festival is truly one of the world’s most unique sporting events; a polo match on the ‘roof of the world’.
Shandur hosts the world’s highest polo ground, and the annual summer Shandur Polo Festival is a time for celebration for the entire region but recent political differences and national calamities in the region have put the festival in contention.
The hope is not only that the festival happens but it receives massive national, and international, coverage so the entire world is able to see the beauty and talent of the north in Pakistan.
13. The South Asian Federation (SAF) games
The SAF games are South Asia’s answer to the Olympics. Traditionally, Pakistan has done well at the games, and with the 2016 version set to take place in India there is added incentive for the Pakistan delegation to bring back some gold from the home turf of the traditional rival.
14. India - Pakistan kabaddi to resume
The 2015 kabaddi world cup in India was called off due to massive protests. India and Pakistan may face each other in the SAF games scheduled to take place in February 2016 but one hopes for regular kabaddi matches between the two countries.
The sport is massively popular in Punjab and it is part of the tradition of both countries. It may also allow many Pakistanis and Indians to blow off some steam by taking part in some competitive jostling.
15. The obvious
Saving the biggest one for last, reading through the previous two conclusions you might already have inkling about what I am building up towards; it tops the list of every sports fan in Pakistan, the hope for India-Pakistan bilateral cricket series to resume.
Ideally, it would take place in Pakistan but even a series in India or a neutral venue will equally have all of us pulsating at the prospect of these cricket giants going head to head. India versus Pakistan cricket matches have the potential to bring the world to a standstill and the entire nation is balanced at knife-edge for the next chance to see them go head-to-head.
There is nothing more I would like to see than Pakistan beat India in cricket in 2016!