Department players, officials remain apprehensive [The News]

Department players, officials remain apprehensive [The News]

by Alam Zeb Safi

KARACHI: It is not yet clear whether the departments will close their sports teams and divert their funding towards the regional teams following the instructions from the Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“The real picture will be known after two months. I cannot say at this stage that departmental teams are being abolished,” an official of the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC), who is involved in the matter, told ‘The News’.

A few days ago the IPC Ministry issued a letter to a handful of departments, saying: “Discontinue funding to departmental sports teams of various government agencies, corporations and autonomous bodies and instead these funds may be utilised for the promotion of regional sports teams.

“In order to implement the direction of the honourable prime minister you are therefore requested to prepare a practical transition plan to divert funding from departmental teams to regional teams within two months which should be implemented within a period of six months from March 1, 2022,” the letter says.

WAPDA, PIA, Higher Education Commission (HEC), Railways, National Bank of Pakistan (NBP), FBR and the IGs Punjab, Sindh, KP, Balochistan, Gilgit Baltistan and AJK have been issued the letter.

The official said: “We have clarified in the letter that within two months time they should prepare a road-map and all these details will be put before the premier. And after that the picture will become clear.”

But the body language of the official indicated that athletes, employed in the various departments, may face some tough time in future as far as their job security is concerned.

There is also a chance that departments may be allowed in future to offer contracts to players which will be renewable depending on their fitness and performances. The premier wants departments to back regional sides, but departmental sources are of the opinion that it will be difficult for them to do so.

“Why should we back regional sides? The provinces have a huge sports budget and they can develop their own sports if they want to do so,” a departmental source told this correspondent.

It has been learnt that a few more departments including KRL, SSGC and Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) are expected to be issued similar instructions.

“The armed forces have not been issued the letter because they don’t recruitment on the basis of sports quota,” the official said.

This correspondent drew his attention towards the fact that Army had hired some premier Pakistan players on contract basis. He did not answer.

The official said that WAPDA had 2200 players and 66 teams in different sports disciplines. “How many of them are active?” he said.

The official was of the view that hardly 100 players of WAPDA have been playing for Pakistan in the international circuit.

When this correspondent pointed out that WAPDA needed more than 100 players for keeping its senior and a couple of age-group football teams, the official said it was a lot and they should not have so many people for just football.

Under the AFC Club Licensing regulations, a club which in case of Pakistan are mostly departments which are set to adopt AFC regulations, will have to keep its senior teams and youth teams as per the following regulations.

(a) At least two youth teams of different age groups within the age range of 15 to 21;

(b) At least one youth team within the age range of 10 to 14;

(c) At least one under 10 team.

Each youth team, except the under 10s, must take part in official competitions or programmes played at national, regional or local level and recognised by the AFC Member Association.

The Prime Minister intends to apply the formula of cricket to other sports as well. According to federation sources, if departmental teams were abolished it would create a huge issue for them in finding players capable of competing at the international level.

“You know, mostly poor people adopt sports as their profession. It is because of the job charm that youth come to sports. If there are no jobs and departmental teams are abolished then even parents will not allow their children to adopt sports. The corporate sector is not interested in Olympic sports and the premier should not abolish departmental teams,” a senior official of an influential federation told ‘The News’.

“Imran Khan is bringing a European model but it will not work here in Pakistan. The big issue is that the federal government cannot even force provinces to promote sports.”

Published in The News, 29 September 2021