National Games ponder including Football and hockey

Lahore, 30 November: The Organizing committee of 31st National Games is meditative of including football and hockey as they are re looking to include two top games in the biennial Games. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Sports Minister Syed Aqil Shah announced that the 31st National Games will take place from 25-31 December 2010 at Peshawar.

National Games offer 25 sports for men and seven for women. Women swimming and shooting contests will be held in Islamabad due to lack of facilities in Peshawar, Authorities had earlier decided to include 28 games in the event but football, hockey and cycling were later dropped.

“After Pakistan football and hockey team proved themselves in Asian Games, many people showered praise on the teams and now Pakistan Olympics Association (POA) are under think tank to include the thrilling outdoor sports in the event’s fold,” . Earlier, POA decided to exclude as many as 12 outdoor disciplines on grounds of security in the volatile North West Province of Khyber pakhtunkhawa. However, POA was criticized for snubbing major sports from the national games and many advised to move the games from the province if the conditions were so bad.

It will be sixth Games on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after 1958, 1974, 1982, 1990 and 1998 at Peshawar that saw change of name by NA on 8 April this year. The same city saw the debut of football in 1982 with PAF winning the gold.

“Certainly national games would not have the gloss without the beautiful games. And since Pakistan has won gold medal in Asian Games after 20 years, and U23 football team gained a point for the first time since 1974 Asian Games, so all the sympathies are now with football and hockey and they would likely to be included in the National Games.. Meanwhile,

Pakistan Football Federation (PFF)’s Secretary General Lt.Col ® Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi told that POA’s explanation of snubbing football was on the security grounds as football is an outdoor game. “However, if one outdoor sports could be included and be provided with security then certainly other sports also have the right to be included in the national mega event,” Ahmed said. He further said that football is one of the most popular sport in the country and its popularity is increasing day by day under dynamic leadership of PFF Chief Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat, so it would not be right to ignore it for the national games.

Earlier, Lodhi wrote a letter to POA President Lt.Gen (Retd) Syed Arif Hasan and copied to PSB Director General and Ministry of Sports and said that Football is not only the most popular and widely played game of the world but is also the most widely played game in Pakistan. The decision of excluding this game from the eagerly-awaited National Games is absolutely incorrect and very damaging for the development of football in Pakistan.

There are over 60000 registered football players in Pakistan. The number of un registered players, according to rough estimate is more than one million. All these players always look forward to represent their Regional / Provincial Teams in the National Games. These games also provide a very good opportunity of talent hunt to PFF. The exclusion of this major game, therefore, will not only hurt the keen youth of Pakistan involved in the game of football but will also deprive Faisal Saleh Hayat-led PFF from a very good talent hunt opportunity .

Former National skipper Ghulam Rabbani too lambasted the National Games organisers and suggested them to change the name of the event. “The National games should be renamed as Indoor games,” said Rabbani. “I condemn this awful decision to expel lovely game of soccer. I request to higher authorities to look into this matter.”

Pakistan Army complete hat-trick of golds in football when they overwhelmed host Sindh in final of 30th National Games Fooball Tournament three years ago. The tense, absorbing final was watched by a big crowd at Peoples Sports Complex. It was 0-0 at full-time and extra-time of 30-minutes also failed to provide any goal. After 120 minutes of barren match, Referee Imtiaz Shah asked both the teams to take part in penalty-shoot out. Army showed better commitment and won the tie-break session 7-6 in sudden death one-by-one system.

It was Army’s third successive gold in soccer of National Games. They earlier won the gold in 2001 Games at Lahore and 2004 Games in 2004. It was overall their fifth gold, having won top slot on 1995 and 1997.