Mohammad Asif - one; media - zero!
He is the World's Amateur Champion, not the World Champion - there is a difference!
Yesterday, my nation celebrated Mohammad Asif’s win as the new World Snooker Champion. A bit confused, I thought to myself, but hadn’t the Snooker championship already taken place this year? Hadn’t Ronnie O’Sullivan from England won the title in May 2012?
Then again, looking at the buzz of activity surrounding this news on my Twitter feed, Facebook timeline and other social media forums, I could have been wrong. While celebrations continued, I looked onto tweets saying “Pakistan is the new Snooker Champion” and “Pakistan has finally got the title back” and my curiosity drove me to Google.
Upon Googling the words ‘world snooker champion’ the first thing to pop up was “O Sullivan 2012 Final video”. This hardly surprised me. Curious now to know what tournament Mohammad Asif did in fact win, I performed another search and true to my gut feeling, the tournament he won was not the professional World Snooker Championship, as was claimed; it was the IBSF World Snooker Championship.
Similarly, after another quick search I also found out that Mohammad Yousuf had never won the professional World Snooker Championship either. He too, had only won the IBSF, a tournament, much inferior to the professional World Snooker Championship.
What startled me about the way the events surrounding this tournament played out was the fact that before yesterday, not one TV channel ever bothered to broadcast this snooker tournament! In fact, I don’t think I can recall any news anchor even utter the words “amateur Snooker Championship”. However, when time came to broadcast the tournament, because our fellow countryman had won, they made it look like this was the biggest snooker championship of all.
As a patriotic citizen, I too was thrilled at hearing that Pakistan’s name shone bright in the snooker circles as well. I couldn’t have been more proud of Mohammad Asif.
Having said as much, I do not believe that my enthusiasm, excitement and pride would have been any less, or would even suffer a damper, were I given the true facts instead of the exaggerated version broadcasted.
Why did news channels not highlight the fact that this was an amateur tournament?
Why were viewers deceived in to believing that we had won the World Championship?
This is a gross inaccuracy. Last I checked, Under-19 world Cups are highlighted as just that - Under 19 world cups. Our news anchors do not go around saying the Pakistan cricket team has won the World Cup.
Do you see the difference now?
Yes, it is the responsibility of the media to divulge information to the public in a manner that calls out to their nationalistic pride, but doing so without manipulating the facts is also their responsibility. As a nation, now we should look at things more pragmatically and understand the importance of the smaller events, which may finally lead us to the bigger events like the professional World Snooker Championship.
The government needs to take notice of this success, realise that it is an important stepping stone for all Pakistani’s and understand that it is now high time that such sports are given the right kind of attention. They should hone talent, setup workshops and facilitate other individuals interested in taking part in such tournaments. So far, apart from Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Yousuf, there are only two other sportsmen - Jahangir Khan and Jansher Khan - to have won individual titles from Pakistan.
Individual sports like Snooker, Badminton, Tennis, Swimming etcetera should be encouraged and the government should provide monthly allowances to those who are really interested so they can concentrate fully on their sport of choice.
If we paint a picture for viewers that shows more than we have achieved, how will we create the drive needed to strive for bigger and better things?
Only a true picture, showing our true potential can raise awareness and help us improve further. Yes, this a matter of national pride, but let’s not sit on it like this was as far as it goes.
The sky is the limit and we have just started out!
Follow Zahir on Twitter @sxahir.