by Alam Zeb Safi
KARACHI: Players and sports officials on Thursday appreciated the step of the Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif to restore departmental sports in the country.
The PTI regime last year in September had issued a notification, asking all the departments to stop funding their sports teams and divert the funds to support regional teams.
Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif reversed the decision on Thursday at a special ceremony in Islamabad during which he awarded cash prizes to the medal winners of the Commonwealth Games and the Islamic Games.
“It’s a major step and was indeed needed,” Pakistan’s premier wrestler Mohammad Inam told ‘The News’ after attending the award ceremony at the PM House in Islamabad on Thursday.
Inam won silver in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
“If a player does not have a job how will he support his family? If we are to develop our sports we need to carry on this practice of awarding jobs to the athletes,” said Inam, also a former two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist.
“I have always advocated departmental sports. The state can sustain this practice even if it keeps a 0.5 percent quota for sports,” said Inam, also chairman of Pakistan Olympic Association’s (POA) athlete commission.
He stressed that the number of departmental teams should be raised as it would create a competitive environment among teams and more youngsters would be able to get jobs.
Former Pakistan football captain Mohammad Essa said that departments play the role of academies. They nurture young talent which helps the nation win medals in international circuit, he added.
“These are like nurseries and do the job of which academies do. Departmental sports’ importance cannot be overemphasised,” Essa told ‘The News’.
“I am thankful to the prime minister who took a much-needed decision to ensure the country’s sports future. The step will now again attract youth towards sports. It will have a very positive impact on the status of the overall sports in the country,” Essa said.
Essa also urged the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Normalisation Committee to go for a football event immediately following the welcome decision of the Prime Minister.
“I think it’s right time to announce either the Premier League or National Challenge Cup. It would have been great had NC held a national event before holding a national camp for preparing national team for future national duty,” Essa said.
He said that the PM should add in the notification that all those departments which disbanded their teams in the past few years must restore their outfits so that those who lost their jobs could return to jobs and start supporting their families.
Pakistan Volleyball Federation (PVF) chairman Chaudhry Yaqoob also hailed the PM’s announcement. “It’s a good decision as far as jobs of the athletes are concerned,” Yaqoob told ‘The News’.
“The PCB has money and can support its players but other federations cannot do that and departmental teams are extremely important as they offer jobs to the players who can then support their families. Without jobs and professional leagues how can a player play a sport!” Yaqoob said.
Pakistan Handball Federation’s (PHF) president Mohammad Shafiq also backed the premier’s decision. “I think it’s the right decision,” he said.