Talib opens up about Pakistan's Asian Games debacle

Pakistan finished at the 31st position of the Asian Games medals tally

October 11, 2023
Bronze medallists Pakistan stand on the podium during the award ceremony of the men’s team kabaddi event during the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou in China's eastern Zhejiang province on October 7, 2023. - AFP

KARACHI: Former Pakistan athlete and one of the country’s best athletics coaches, Muhammad Talib, has stated that Pakistan’s below-par performance in all disciplines of the recently concluded Asian Games is an eye-opener for those who are at the helm of sporting affairs.

It is pertinent to mention that Pakistan finished at the 31st position of the Asian Games medals tally. Bahrain (20 medals), Kazakhstan (80), Kuwait (11), Saudi Arabia (10), Jordan (9), Macau (6) and Afghanistan (5) finished ahead – despite Pakistan having far richer sporting history.

“The standard of sports has deteriorated in our country to such an extent that we have faced such humiliation today. Our sporting system has completely failed. And as a result, we are not producing athletes who can win medals internationally,” said Talib while talking to The News.

“It’s time revolutionary steps were taken to improve the performance of Pakistani athletes’ at least in those disciplines which we dominated in the past,” he said.

Talib, who runs Athletic Fitness School (AFS), said that just laying turfs, tartan tracks or building sports complexes and gymnasiums will not address the decline.

“Though infrastructure has been developed in the last decade, it did not reap the desired results due to insufficient events at the grassroots and national levels. Hence, young and talented individuals are not coming to the fore,” Talib said.

No sports activity at school and college level is also a major reason, he said. 

"Only school and college-age students can change the destiny of Pakistan sports if governments provide them with proper opportunities. Schools and colleges should arrange training camps during summer vacations in collaboration with the Ministry of Education,” he said.

"Till the 1970s and '80s, they arranged inter-school and inter-college competitions. As a result, talented athletes were available to sports federations who then used to groom them," he said.

He said that there is a need to give responsibility to the Ministry of Education to organise inter-school and college sports competitions regularly. 

“Federal and provincial governments should learn from the Asian Games debacle, and take it as a challenge to put Pakistan’s performance on the track in the South Asian Games 2024 so our image at the regional level can improve,” Talib said.

Syed Intikhab Ali is a reporter for The News