In cricket-obsessed Pakistan, a level playing field requires a sports field.
ISLAMABAD (Associated Press) — On the outskirts of Islamabad, large men scrum on a rugby field that has seen better days. The club’s name is displayed on a sign that is worn. The floodlights are too expensive to use, given high electricity costs and the club’s meager monthly membership fees of $135.
Coach Mohammed Zahir Uddin observed the players and lamented, “There is only one game in Pakistan.”
Cricket, the most popular sport in the country, is a juggernaut in terms of sponsorship, broadcasting rights, and capturing the public’s imagination.
Cricket has completely eclipsed other sports, including those in which Pakistan excelled. Pakistan’s national sport, field hockey, once propelled the nation to Olympic gold and global glory, but its popularity and participation have since declined. Decades after dominating the squash world, Pakistan has become a mere shadow of its former self.
Even bleaker are the prospects for a sport like rugby, which has neither a golden age nor heroes in Pakistan.
The captain of Pakistan’s national rugby team, Hammad Safdar, stated, “There is no support from the appropriate bodies in terms of funding and spreading the word.” “The majority of sports share a common problem. Because we lack a foundation, our performance in the later stages, when there is a test, is lacking.”
Next year, Pakistan will host the South Asian Games, the country’s largest sporting event in twenty years. The last time it hosted, it won 143 medals, including 38 gold. However, years of neglect of sports may impact its medal count this time.
A lack of investment and interest, according to proponents of sports that fall under cricket’s shadow, prevents them from thriving or winning top honors. Even the universally adored sport of soccer faces difficulties in Pakistan. Internal strife and government interference have resulted in FIFA suspensions, stunting its domestic and international growth.