KARACHI: Pakistan’s most seasoned tennis player and 2017 Islamic Games’ team event silver medallist Aqeel Khan feels it is encouraging that the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) has rewarded players with cash for their performance, but feels more needs to be done for the development of the sport.
The Davis Cupper, along with Abid Mushtaq, reached in the final of the team event but lost to Turkey 3-0 to finish with a silver medal in Baku this month — one of the three silvers won by Pakistan, along with their nine bronze.
Aqeel felt Aisamul Haq Qureshi was badly missed. “Had Aisam been there, we could have won gold,” Aqeel told The Express Tribune. “We won it in the last edition (in 2005), but other teams are catching up fast due to superior resources and facilities being at their disposal.”
Aqeel, however, believes Pakistan have what it takes to compete at the top. “Pakistani athletes have all the potential to be among world-class talent but they lack confidence in their own abilities, and that is due to a lack of training and exposure in international events. The PTF should be doing more too. I’m glad they announced a cash prize; it is encouraging, but what about the future?”
PTF president Salim Saifullah Khan announced on Thursday that Aqeel will be getting Rs100,000 as the top ranked player in the team, while Abid and Muzammil Murtaza will receive Rs50,000 each, whereas coach Mahboob Khan will get Rs30,000.
“They need to work on the grassroots level, but also have planned training sessions for each sport,” suggested Aqeel. “They need to have a vision as to which sport can get them results and put more resources there. It is unfortunate that we compete on such little training and investment. The PTF needs to figure out who will be their next crop to compete for the country once me and Aisam retire — it all needs long-term planning.”
Aqeel was nominated as the flag-bearer at the closing ceremony in Baku, which came as a pleasant surprise for him.
“I was surprised and honoured; my team was really supportive, and I don’t think that our contingent head and officials were expecting any medals so it felt good to be honoured like that at the end of the games,” said Aqeel.
Aqeel suggested that the PTF will need to go back to the basics and have programmes for children in schools and colleges. “We are lagging behind in sports internationally, and the only way we can make up for that is by having better sports programmes at schools and colleges,” he said.