enjoys a bright future in Pakistan
No medals were won at the 1948 London Olympic Games – hockey though came close to a bronze at least before losing out to Holland in the third place play-off
By Gul Hameed Bhatti
As a newly independent country, having separated from British India, Pakistan was just 350 days old when it began its Olympic Games campaign in London when the 14th Olympiad was launched at the Great Britain capital on July 29, 1948. Sixteen days later, when the Games came to an end, Pakistan was celebrating its first anniversary as Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's new Muslim nation in the Indo-Pak sub-continent.
On the sporting front, however, Pakistan didn't make any big waves in that first year of its being a free state. No medals were won at the 1948 London Olympic Games -- hockey though came close to a bronze at least before losing out to Holland in the third place play-off. In the seven disciplines that Pakistan was represented, the new nation's athletes finished only among the also rans, in almost all cases back at the very rear of their respective chosen events.
Surely, it was nothing to have been alarmed about. Of course, Pakistan had shared undivided India's sporting legacy for several decades prior to 1947 but, after independence, it literally had to pick up the pieces to become a sporting nation in its own right. The Quaid-e-Azam, the founder of the nation, among other things also provided a kickstart to the country's ambitions in sports by heading the campaign to inaugurate Pakistan's first 'Olympic Games' and national championships in various other disciplines as soon as it was possible to do so.
The Quaid-e-Azam, also the first Governor-General of Pakistan, declared the inaugural Pakistan Olympic Games open at the Polo Ground in Karachi, which now houses the Baradari in the Bagh-e-Quaid-e-Azam and the Pearl-Continental Hotel in one corner. The Governor-General House, which is now home to the Governor of the Sindh province, is situated right next to the ground.
A total of 140 athletes were represented in the 1948 Pakistan Olympics. Competitions were held in athletics -- both men and women took part, basketball, boxing, cycling, volleyball, weightlifting and wrestling.
West Punjab won the overall championship. The Quaid-e-Azam donated a Challenge Shield from his private funds which bears his illustrious name.
The Quaid-e-Azam, addressing the athletes from all the provinces and states of Pakistan, had said: "I bid you welcome. My message to you is build up physical strength not for aggression, not for militarism, but for becoming fit, all your life and all the time, in every walk of life of your nation wherever you be and always to be a force for peace, international amity and goodwill. After these Games, you shall go to the World Olympiad at Wembley Stadium, London, representing us as messengers of our goodwill and my best wishes will go with you. Remember, to win is nothing. It is the effort and the spirit behind the effort that counts."
PAKISTAN SELECTS ITS CHAMPIONS FOR OLYMPIAD
Pakistan sent players for seven sporting disciplines at the 1948 Olympic Games in London. The number of athletes was 39 with the contingent comprising 54 persons including all the officials, etc. The Honourable Ahmad E.H. Jaffar, President of the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA), was the country's representative at the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Major S.A. 'Tooti' Hamid, a respected sports administrator and coach whose daughter Tahira Hamid was one of Pakistan's most versatile sportspersons and whose son Farooq Hamid played Test cricket for Pakistan as a fast bowler, was appointed as the Pakistan team's Chef de Mission.
There were only male members in the Olympics bound squad. There were five athletes in the track and field events. In addition, there were three boxers, two cyclists, 19 hockey players, four swimmers, two weightlifters and four wrestlers.
Almost all players chosen for the 1948 Olympiad were either champions of their respective events in the Pakistan Games or won medals of lower categories as compared to gold. Whether they were expected to repeat their feats in London is something not much is known about, but there was hope that they would all do well. In the end, hardly anyone fulfilled his individual promise, the standard at the Olympic Games was way above their heads. The story, sadly, continues today, even after 60 years have now gone by.
PAKISTAN ATHLETES BRING THE REAR
Most of the athletes finished last even in the heats of their chosen events. Mohammad Sharif Butt, who took second place in his 200 metres heat, qualified for the second round though, only to be banished to the last spot.
The athletics squad captain Zahur Ahmed Khan and Lt-Col Nazar Mohammad Malik were both entered in the shot put and discus throw events. Both failed to qualify for the finals. Zahur's shot put distance was not measured because during all his three throws, he lost his balance and overstepped the ring.
All three boxers were defeated at the first round stage, the referee stopping Alex Monterio's bantamweight fight inside the initial round when he faced India's B Lall. The two cyclists produced dismal results too.
Incidentally, Aftab Farrukh, winner of the 1,000 metres sprint at the 1948 National Championship, was not chosen in the Olympics squad. Aftab, now a retired judge, has recently become well known around the world as head of the Appellate Tribunal formed by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to solve the Shoaib Akhtar case!
All swimmers sent by Pakistan to London finished at the very end in their different events in the pool. Weightlifters Mohammad Iqbal Butt and Mohammad Naqi Butt barely saved themselves from ending at the very bottom.
The wrestlers presented a sad story. They were unable even to compete at the Olympiad, because they had been entered by Major S.A. Hamid, the then Honorary Secretary of the POA who was in London actually as the Pakistan contingent's Chef de Mission, in the Greco-Roman style event and not in Free Style.
When this came to light Zafar Ali, the then treasurer of the POA and who happened to be with the contingent, made unsuccessful efforts to change the entry from Greco-Roman to Free Style.
Naqi Butt, who was actually a participant in the heavyweight weightlifting event, was also deputed to act as coach of the Pakistan wrestling team. He also acted as referee in two competitions against the Dutch in Holland, which the Pakistan team fought before going to London.
HOCKEY BRINGS ABOUT SOME CHEER
Pakistan went unbeaten through the third group in the hockey competition, and it was not Holland who gave them most trouble. Belgium and France held Pakistan to scores of 2-1 and 3-1 respectively, whereas Holland were beaten 6-1. The Dutch team, however, qualified for the semifinals by winning their remaining games.
Holland showed much better form against India in the semifinal than they had done against Pakistan, and many spectators thought they deserved to draw instead of being beaten 2-1 after being two goals down at half-time. In the other match, Britain beat Pakistan 2-0, after a desperately hard game. Both goals were scored by Adlard during the second half.
India won their fourth successive Olympic hockey title -- their first as an independent nation -- after displaying convincing form from start to finish of the tournament, winning all their five games in the course of which they scored 25 goals and conceded only two. Their previous three gold medals had been earned in Amsterdam (1928), Los Angeles (1932) and Berlin (1936).
Although they had been so convincingly beaten when the teams met in the preliminary groups, Holland first held Pakistan to a draw of 1-1 in the match for third place, and then won the replay by 4-1. They might well have won the match at the first attempt for, after being a goal down at half-time, they were so much on top in the second half that it was surprising they could score only once.
On the form they displayed at their best, Holland might well have proved more than a match for Britain had the draw worked out differently. Pakistan ended at fourth place, a trend that they were able to change for the better by the time the 1956 Olympic Games were played in Melbourne.
They were a welcome addition to the competitors though and might well have finished among the medal winners on their first appearance instead of being relegated to fourth place after a replay. There were 13 entrants in all at London 1948.
The Pakistam hockey team comprised the following: Ali Iqtidar Shah Dara (captain), M. Anwar Beg Moghal, Mohammad Niaz Khan, Abdul Razzak, Shahzada Khurram, Shah Rukh, Abdul Hameed, Hamidullah Burki, Mohammad Taqi, Abdul Qayyum Khan, Abdul Aziz, Mahmood-ul-Hasan, Masud Ahmed, Mukhtar Bhatti, S.M. Saleem, Rehmatullah, M. De Mello, A.G. Khan and Aziz-ur-Rehman.
Basir Ali Sheikh was the manager of the team while O.B. Nazareth went to London as the hockey side's assistant manager.
FIFTY-NINE NATIONS AT 1948 OLYMPIAD
The 1948 Summer Olympics, the Games of the XIV Olympiad, were held after a hiatus of 12 years caused by World War II. These were the first Summer Olympics since the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. The 1940 Games had been scheduled for Tokyo, and later Helsinki as WWII started; the 1944 Games had been provisionally planned for London.
The number of nations participating was 59. There were 4,104 athletes comprising 3,714 men and 390 women, who competed in 136 events in 17 sports.
By comparison, the Olympic Games being held in Beijing, China, in August this year will have approximately 10,500 athletes participating in 302 events in 28 sports. The number of nations represented may go as high up as 205.
The 1948 London Games were the first to be shown on home television, says the Olympic Movement's official website, although very few people in Great Britain actually owned sets.
A women's canoeing event was held for the first time -- and won by Karen Hoff of Denmark. A 17-year-old American Bob Mathias won the decathlon only four months after taking up the sport. He is the youngest athlete in Olympic history to win a men's athletics event.
Two athletes who were Olympic champions in 1936 managed to defend their titles twelve years later. They were Ilona Elek of Hungary in women's foil fencing and Jan Brzak of Czechoslovakia in the canoeing Canadian pairs 1,000m.
Fanny Blankers-Koen of the Netherlands was the world record holder in six events, but, according to the rules of the day, was only allowed to enter four. She won all four: the 100m dash, the 80m hurdles, the 200m and the 4x100m relay.
Concert pianist Micheline Ostermeyer of France won both the shot put and the discus throw. Karoly Takacs was a member of the Hungarian world champion pistol shooting team in 1938 when a grenade shattered his right hand -- his pistol hand. Takacs taught himself to shoot with his left hand and, ten years later, he won an Olympic gold medal in the rapid-fire pistol event.
United States of America (USA) topped the medals list with a total of 84 -- 38 gold, 27 silver and 19 bronze. Sweden were second with 44 (16-11-17) and France third with 29 (10-6-13).
The top 10 teams medals-wise included Hungary 27, Italy 27, Finland 20, Turkey 12, Czechoslovakia 11, Switzerland 20 and Denmark 20.
NEXT WEEK: Pakistan at 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki
writer is Group Editor Sports of 'The News'
PAKISTAN AT 1948 OLYMPIC GAMES: ALL RESULTS
100 metres: 1st round heat 11 Mohammad Sharif Butt 4th out of 4
200 metres: 1st round heat 9 Mohammad Sharif Butt 22.8sec 2nd out of 4. 2nd round heat 4 Mohammad Sharif Butt 6th out of 6
110 metres hurdles: 1st round heat 6 Mazhar-ul-Haq Khan 5th out of 5
400 metres hurdles: 1st round heat 2 Mohsin Khan 59.5sec 4th out of 4
Putting the shot: Zahur Ahmed Khan and Nazar Mohammad Malik did not qualify for the final
Throwing the discus: Zahur Ahmed Khan and Nazar Mohammad Malik did not qualify for the final
Bantamweight (up to 54kg): 1st round Alex Monterio lost to B Lall (India) referee stopped fight in first round
Featherweight (up to 58kg): 1st round Sydney Greve lost to D Shepherd (South Africa) on points
Welterweight (up to 67kg): 1st round Anwar Pasha Turki lost to A Obeyesekere (Ceylon) on points
1,000 metres scratch: 1st round heat 10 Mohammad Naqi Mallick lost to J Heid (USA). Repechage heat 3 Mohammad Naqi Mallick lost to C Bazzano (Australia)
1,000 metres time trial: Wazir Ali 1:24.8min 20th out of 21
Cycle road race: Wazir Ali did not finish
Preliminary Groups: Group C Pakistan topped with 4 played, 4 won, goals for 20, goals against 3, points 8. Pakistan beat Belgium 2-1 (half-time Belgium 1-0), beat Denmark 9-0 (ht 5-0), beat France 3-1 (ht 1-1), beat Holland 6-1 (ht 0-0)
Semifinals: Pakistan lost to Great Britain 2-0 (ht 0-0)
Third place match: Pakistan drew with Holland 1-1 (ht Pakistan 1-0). Replay of third place match: Pakistan lost to Holland 4-1 (ht 1-1). Pakistan finished 4th
400 metres free style: 1st round heat 3 Anwar Aziz Chaudhry 6:17.4min 7th out of 7. 1st round heat 6 Sultan Karamally 7:16.9min 7th out of 7
1,500 metres free style: 1st round heat 1 Anwar Aziz Chaudhry 25:37.4min 7th out of 7
200 metres breast-stroke: 1st round heat 3 Iftikhar Ahmed Shah 3:28.1min 8th out of 8
100 metres back stroke: 1st round heat 2 Jaffer Ali Shah 1:30.2min 7th out of 7
4x200 metres relay: Heat 1 Anwar Aziz Chaudhry/Sultan Karamally/Iftikhar Ahmed Shah/Jaffer Ali Shah 12:25.8min 6th out of 6
Middleweight (up to 75kg): Mohammad Iqbal Butt press 92.5kg, snatch 90kg, jerk 122.5kg, total 305kg 22nd out of 24
Heavyweight (over 82.5kg): Mohammad Naqi Butt press 97.5kg, snatch 97.5kg, jerk 125kg, total 320kg 15th out of 16
Mohammad Amin (bantamweight), Shaukat Ali (featherweight), Abdul Hamid (lightweight) and Mohammad Anwar (heavyweight) were the four contestants. It transpired later that all had been entered for the Greco-Roman style competition and not free style. All four eventually couldn't take part in the wrestling event
PAKISTAN DID NOT WIN ANY MEDALS
In the 2000 Olympics, although Malaysia did not finish high in the eventual rankings they caused quite a sensation
By Dr Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry
Malaysia is one country which has made great strides in recent times and has virtually astonished the world. It has proved itself to be an Asian tiger in the real sense and is now one of the most vibrant economies of the continent. A "testimony" to that is world's tallest building in the country.
It also personifies unity in diversity. Muslims are in a majority but they constitute only 55% of the population. The rest is mainly composed of ethnic Chinese and people of Indian origin. The minorities enjoy full rights and in the true literal sense.
The Islamic code is applicable only to Muslims. Even an annual beauty contest to select Miss Malaysia is held but it is open only to non-Muslims and the winners even go to global contests like Miss Universe and Miss World.
Sport is also one of the domains where Malaysia's wealthy status has converged. To be part of Motor Grand Prix circuit is a status symbol for a nation. Malaysia is one of the selected countries which are part of this elite group. It has also conducted the Commonwealth Games (in 1998), a mega sports event perhaps second only to the Olympics in magnitude.
One sporting discipline of which Malaysia can be termed as the hub of international activity is hockey. As a host Malaysia has many distinctions. Along with Holland, it is the only country to have held the World Cup twice (1975 and 2002). As far as the Junior World Cup is considered, Malaysia stands alone to have held it twice (1982 and 1989). Likewise, it has conducted the Asia Cup twice, both senior as well as junior.
Apart from it, Malaysia was the first country outside the 'big four' of international hockey i.e. Pakistan, Holland, Germany and Australia to stage the Champions Trophy, which they did in 1993. The Malaysian hockey federation added yet another feather to its cap by hosting the first and so far the only Intercontinental Cup in which selected teams representing the continents of Asia, Europe, Africa, Oceania and the Americas participated in 1990.
On the field itself also, Malaysia has achieved glory in international events. Malaysian hockey's finest hour was the fourth position in the third World Cup of 1975 when they were hosts. Another achievement was getting a silver medal in the 1998 Commonwealth Games also in Malaysia, when hockey was included in these games for the first time.
Outside their own boundaries, a high mark for their hockey was a fourth position in the inaugural Junior World Cup in 1979. In the 2000 Olympics, although Malaysia did not finish high in the eventual rankings they caused quite a sensation. They drew not only with Pakistan but also with the then Olympic and world champions Holland (who later won the gold).
In the Asian games of 2002, it was Malaysia who defeated Pakistan in the bronze medal play off to condemn the latter off the medal podium for the first time in Asian Games hockey.
The Malaysian enthusiasm for this stick and ball game is not confined to holding international events only. Their domestic league is highly competitive and keenly attended and followed. Many foreign stars adorn the MHL as professionals.
The names include among others, Dhanraj Pillay, India's best forward of the last decade and a half. India's great right-out of recent past, Mukesh Kumar has also plied his trade here. In 2002, the greatest penalty corner flicker of this era, Sohail Abbas appeared for BSN club along with fellow Pakistani, Kashif Jawwad. Sohail's penalty corner goals played a major part in his club's qualification for the knockout phase.
Then in the final, with more that 10,000 fans jam packing the Bukit Jalil stadium in Kuala Lumpur, Sohail netted the only goal of the final. Interestingly, the next year when BSN club could not sign Sohail, they opted for the young and upcoming Pakistani Imran Waarsi as their penalty corner expert.
The man who is generally acknowledged as the real spirit behind Malaysian hockey is Sultan Azlan Shah, a member of the royal family and Raja of Perak State. Azlan Shah also had a stint as king of Malaysia for five years from 1989 to 1994. The country has a unique arrangement of kingship being rotated between members of the royal family.
Sultan Azlan Shah remained an active hockey player well into his sixties and an important event of his birthday used to be a hockey match participated by the Shah himself. He is presently the president of the Asian Hockey Federation and vice president of FIH (International Hockey Federation).
In recognition for his great love and services for the game of hockey, a tournament titled the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup is being held in Malaysia since 1983. Being an invitational tournament, it is not always participated by all the top teams. Still, since 2006 there has been a new entrant every year.
In 2006, Argentina became the first team to appear from South America. Last year, the new emerging force China made its maiden appearance. And this year, Belgium is making its Azlan Shah debut. Belgium caused a great sensation during last year's European Championships. They defeated Germany, the world champions, to win the bronze medal. This was not only their first ever medal at the Euros but it also earned Belgium an automatic qualification for the Beijing Olympics. Germany was pushed into the qualifiers.
The tournament has become almost a yearly affair since 1994 and is now the most highly regarded invitational hockey event. The Asian nations, Pakistan, India and South Korea along with Malaysia's neighbors Australia and New Zealand have been the more frequent participants.
Pakistan has been a regular participant except from 1995 to 1998. The cause of this absence was really regrettable. It was due to the then secretary PHF, Col Mudassir's greed for power. The national team was not sent to the Azlan Shah Cup all these years as Col Mudassir was active in his overt and covert efforts to replace Sultan Azlan Shah from the latter's seat of President Asian Hockey Federation.
This was really unfortunate since Azlan Shah has always been a great admirer and supporter of Pakistan hockey. Nevertheless, the Malaysians had the last laugh. Pakistan was about to stage the 5th Asia Cup in Lahore in November 1990 but the event was shifted to Malaysia just a couple of weeks before the start.
The reason given was that some of the competing nations had refused to travel to Pakistan, citing security concerns in the wake of the October 1999 military takeover.
Before 1999, Malaysia in general and Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in particular had been a sort of a jinx for Pakistan. The green shirts had never been able to win a major tournament there. They were second in the third World Cup in 1975, third in the two junior World Cups (1982 and 1989), fourth in the Champions Trophy in 1993 and unplaced in the Commonwealth Games of 1998.
Until 1999, Pakistan's only tournament victory at the senior level in Malaysia had been a four-nation tourney in 1980, though they had won the junior Asia Cup in 1992. In the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup itself, up to 1998 Pakistan had been the bridesmaid in four out of five appearances with the third position coming their way on the other occasion.
However, Pakistan finally came out of the hoodoo by winning the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in 1999. Then Pakistan became the first nation to retain this Cup by emerging victorious again the following year. A feat later repeated by Australia.
In 1999, in particular, Pakistan exhibited superb display, thoroughly appreciated by the Malaysian crowds. They won all their six matches by a margin of two or more goals. That year Pakistan pumped in 29 goals in total, a Pakistan record for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. Similarly, Sohail Abbas's personal tally of 12 goals is also a Pakistan highest for this particular tourney.
In 2001, Pakistan were eyeing a hat-trick but they performed miserably. They were unable to reach the medal rostrum for the first time (finishing fourth). Moreover, they also let in 25 goals. This is the highest Pakistan has ever conceded in an international tournament.
In the next three editions of Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, Pakistan finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd in 2003, 2004 and 2005 respectively.
Pakistan's downslide continued. In their last two appearances, Pakistan even failed to reach the semifinals. They were 5th in 2007 and 6th in 2007.
Australia has been the most successful country winning the tournament five times while Pakistan and India have both won it three times each.
Pakistan's top-scorer in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup is Sohail Abbas with 37 goals (in four editions), which is also an all-comers record for the competition.
writer is a freelance contributor
'Bridge is a game of communication between a pair of players, playing partnership and their opposing pair. A contract is decided during the first phase that is called the auction'
By Ghalib Mehmood Bajwa
The game of bridge has been played in Pakistan for many decades but even then there are some reservations among Pakistan people regarding the image and status of the game. Many consider it a game of only aged people while various quarters believe that bridge is just another name for gambling. But the actual situation is quite different.
"Bridge is a beautiful game and is being played world wide. There are around 100 million players playing bridge in 130 countries and five continents. It's not gambling, it's one of the four mind sports recognised by the IOC," this was stated by two key figures of Pakistan bridge -- Ajaz Ahmed and Ihsan Qadir -- while talking to 'The News on Sunday' (TNS) last week at the Lahore Gymkhana Club.
Ihsan Qadir has been Pakistan's only qualified bridge official in the Sub-continent. He acted as Chief Tournament Director (CTD) in the recently organised SAARC Bridge Championship held from April 23-27 at Colombo.
Qadir was specially invited by the SAARC Bridge Federation to act as the CTD due to his vast knowledge and expertise.
It is to be noted here that Qadir is not only the lone tournament director in Pak-India but also in Bridge Federation of Asia Middle East (BFAME) Zone Four which comprises altogether 15 Asian and Middle East countries.
Qadir, who is also the Chief Tournament Director of the PBF, has the distinction of supervising in all the national level tournaments at home besides his regular assignments in the Asian and world bridge tournaments.
Qadir was recognised by WBF as international level tournament director at Colombo in 1999. He conducted a WBF Director Operations Course as an instructor in Karachi last year.
He has the distinction of acting as tournament director in elite events like the International Balijee Bridge Championship for the past 13 years, 10th BFAME Zonal Bridge Championship Colombo in 1999, 3rd SAARC Bridge Championship Karachi 2000, 11th BFAME Zonal Bridge Championship Jordan 2001, World Bridge Team Olympiad Istanbul 2004, 13th BFAME Zonal Bridge Championship at Dhaka 2005, World Bridge Championship Verona 2006 and 14th BFAME Zonal Bridge Championship Karachi 2007.
Ihsan has also been invited to act as Tournament Director at the inaugural World Mind Sports and World Bridge competition at Beijing in October this year.
While defining the game of bridge, Ihsan, who is enriched with bridge knowledge, said "Bridge is a game of communication between a pair of players, playing partnership and their opposing pair. A contract is decided during the first phase that is called the auction," he elucidated.
The second phase involves the play of cards and is based on information gained together with probabilities of card distribution. "Duplicate bridge gives a comparison of results obtained by different pairs holding the same cards and thus no luck is involved in this form of game. It is purely a game of skill and judgment," Ihsan resolved.
While explaining mind sports, Qadir said there are four mind sports -- Bridge, Draughts, Chess and Go. "To play these games one has to have quick reflexes and mental stamina. Competitive attitude, concentration, fair play, fighting spirit and discipline are also essential ingredients for these games," Ihsan elaborated.
"Mind sports are an excellent gymnastic of the brain. These games do enhance the immune system in men and women regardless of their ages," he said.
When asked about the schedule of World Mind Sports Games, soft-spoken Ihsan said the first ever edition of these games is being held at Beijing, China from October 3-18 2008 under the aegis of International Mind Sports Association (IMSA).
"Pakistan Bridge Federation (PBF) is sending an Under-21 team for the pre-Olympic event while an Indian team is also taking part in the competition of U-26 category," he told.
Ajaz Ahmed, son of known bridge player Shaikh Mohammad Iqbal and the sole sponsor of the recently played Balijee International Bridge Championship, said, "There is plenty of bridge talent in Pakistan and a large number of youngsters are taking keen interest in bridge and that's why we can say that the game of bridge has bright future in the country."
It is to be noted here that Balijee International Bridge Championship is held every year in memory of Shaikh Mohammad Iqbal, who was popularly known as Balijee among the bridge community and his friends. It may be recalled here that Balijee Bridge has turned into the biggest event of the PBF calendar due to the generous sponsorship of Ajaz Ahmed and his sister Tahira Nasir and the untiring efforts of Ihsan Qadir.
When asked whether Balijee Bridge is just a family event or an event to promote the game of bridge, Ajaz said, "Though I'm holding this event in memory of my father Shaikh Mohammad Iqbal the large participation of people from both home and abroad shows that this event is playing major role in the promotion of bridge game," he explained.
"We are organising Balijee Bridge for the last 13 years and now we are planning to expand it next year with better prize money."
It is to be noted here that Ajaz's father, the late Iqbal used to play bridge at the Lahore Gymkhana and that's why Ajaz does not want to change the venue of the event.
When asked about the number of participants of the Balijee Bridge event, Ajaz said at Lahore Gymkhana they do have accommodation to hold a 40-team bridge event. "Out of these forty we got around thirty teams from Pakistan and the rest of the teams came from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka etc." It is pertinent to mention here that Ajaz provided free accommodation to all participants of the Balijee event.
To another question, Ajaz was of the view that PBF and regional bridge bodies like Islamabad, Sargodha, Abbottabad and Multan can make it more popular among youth by holding small events regularly.
Ajaz Ahmed said that he did not have any intention to become president of PBF or accept any other such role. "I'm just a sponsor of Balijee Bridge event. As long as I'm alive I will keep doing it," he maintained.
On this occasion Ihsan Qadir said that Ajaz has been asked by many to accept the role of PBF President but he turned down this offer every time.
When asked to comment on Ihsan Qadir's services, Ajaz said that he is doing wonderful job for the cause of bridge. "I'm not the only one who admires his services but the fact is that his contributions to the game have been acknowledged the world over," he showered praise on Ihsan.
As far as the Balijee Bridge event is concerned, Ihsan is the man who started it and he is the man who manages it so far. He looks after the A to Z affairs of the tournament," Ajaz continued.
Ihsan Qadir while commenting about his successor said that no doubt our country is blessed with great bridge potential but frankly we don't have a qualified and world class bridge tournament organiser right now.
"I'm training a guy -- Sarfraz Butt for the role of tournament director but right now he is far from the required international standards." Sarfraz is holding small bridge events these days and learning how to tackle bridge issues. "For proper holding of the event you have to have complete awareness about all rules and requirements of the game," he explained.
Replying to a query Qadir said that he is managing bridge tournaments since the early 1990s after returning from abroad. "Initially I saw that people are not organising bridge events well so I decided to jump into the field as tournament director," he added.
"Though I was not a very good bridge player but for becoming a good bridge organiser I bought over 100 books from America," he further said.
To a question regarding a bridge academy, Ihsan said, "There is no such academy existing these days at least in the Lahore region." However, the PBF has established an academy at Karachi where youngsters are being given proper training of the game. "We are planning to choose 15/20 competent persons and then we will send them abroad for proper teaching training."
To a query regarding PBF's efforts for the promotion of bridge, Ihsan said new PBF president Khurshid Hadi and his team is doing positive efforts to combine all four mind sports on a single platform. "He is also putting in great efforts to generate required funds for the promotion of bridge," he added.
The PBF has introduced Duplicate Mark-5 machine for holding bridge events in an appropriate way. "Even a bigger country like India does not have this duplicate machine," he informed.
Ihsan informed that we are trying our best to amend the concept that the game of bridge is not only for aged people. "Bringing maximum youth into the bridge game is PBF's top priority now.
"Special prizes have also been announced to attract young players. Our youth has a unique talent in mind sports and if groomed properly they can excel and win many laurels for the country."
writer is a staffer at 'The News' Lahore
One is not totally disappointed in them, as with the passage of time and with increased international exposure they will definitely improve
By Gul Nasreen
Women cricket is lagging far behind the men's version of the game in our country where cricket is the most popular game. At the Sub-continent's level, our cricket damsels cannot match the play of other regional teams -- India and Sri Lanka -- who are currently ranked second and fifth respectively in the world ranking.
India has got good women cricketers and last year, India's Jhulan Goswami became the first player from India to take the ICC Women's Player of the Year Award. India has also so far won all the editions of the Women's Asia Cup and is also well-poised to win the ongoing fourth edition of the high-profile event in the Asian women calendar being staged in Sri Lanka.
The hosts Sri Lanka women too have been comparatively playing well and are a force to reckon with in Asian women's cricket. Since the inception of the event in 2004, Sri Lanka are the only team to pose some threat to the Indian team, which has been supreme in Asian women cricket.
As for the Pakistani women, they are a talented bunch of players, but the irony is that they do not have enough international exposure as they do play very little international cricket.
Even after being taken over by the Pakistan Cricket Board, things have not improved much in recent years. Pakistani women missed out on qualification for the 2005 World Cup. Afterwards, Pakistan hosted the Second Women Asia Cup tournament in 2005 in Karachi but the host team could not win a single encounter in the three-team event and finished last in the tournament.
They did not exhibit any fighting spirit at all.
However, the Pakistan women cricket team played magnificently at the World Cup Qualifiers, organized by cricket's governing body (International Cricket Council) in South Africa from 18th-24th February 2008. Their 'good show' was something to boast of and cheer about as it gave the impression of improved future outings by our female cricketers.
It was a good show in a sense that as many as eight nations -- the hosts South Africa, Zimbabwe, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Bermuda, Ireland, Pakistan, Scotland and the Netherlands vied for the two remaining available slots in the ICC Women's World Cup to be staged in Australia next year.
They had really played well in the World Cup Qualifiers and came forth as a force to reckon with, reaching the final in style and emerging as runners-up of the event to claim a place in the 2009 World Cup in a convincing manner. They topped Pool B, which comprised Ireland, Zimbabwe and Scotland and locked horns with SA in the final at Stellenbosch University.
After making it to the World Cup 2009, not only our girls were on cloud nine for their 'classic show' but public expectation from the women cricketers too soared. Admirers were pinning high hopes on the Pak damsels and the ongoing fourth edition of the Women's Asia Cup in Colombo was considered to be a litmus test for them.
The event being competed by India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan is their first competitive tournament after the World Cup Qualifiers in preparation of the World Cup in Australia in 2009 and it was expected that they would pulls off some great wins at the Asian level. The purpose to say is that one was not expecting that our women would turn the tables on the Indian outfit, who have so far won all the three editions of the tournament without dropping a game and are also favorites to win the ongoing tournament.
We, however, were expecting that things might be different for Pakistan as they were entering the event after finishing second behind South Africa in the ICC Women's World Cup Qualifier held in February last. However, they could not come up to expectations as they pathetically dwindled both in their form and approach to the game.
They not only started the event on a very concerning note but also succumbed to debutants Bangladesh, and afterwards continued with their series of losses in a very bizarre way. Both India and Sri Lanka beat them convincingly by big margins, not expected of a team that is back fresh from an event of the calibre of the world qualifiers with a morale boosting qualification for the mega event -- World Cup 2009.
It was really disappointing to see that our girls lost to debutants Bangladesh, who stole the limelight with their historic day with their first win against an ODI team when they beat Pakistan by four wickets in Kurunegala. Salma Khatun, the Bangladesh captain, scored 53 after off-spinner Tithy Sarkar restricted Pakistan to 134.
Compared to the Pakistan girls, the Bangladesh team has also performed better than the Pak girls in their outings against India and Sri Lanka. India beat Pakistan by big margin of 182 runs, but they beat BD by five wickets which show that BD players fought well and did not present the win on a platter to the strong Indian team. On the contrary, India restricted Pakistan to 93 for 9 in 50 overs in their second round match. But Bangladesh bowlers made them struggle and sweat to achieve a total of 161 and at one point India were 58 for three while chasing BD's 161.
After the round-up of the fourth day of matches at the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka on Wednesday, Pakistan was without a single win in the four-team event. It was their 12th loss overall in the Asia Cup's history as they have really performed poorly in the event since it was launched in 2004.
The irony is that the countdown to the World Cup 2009 has begun and Pakistan has very little time to improve. As such Pakistan's chances of pulling victories against tougher teams at the toughest event seem very slim.
All said and done, Pakistan's pathetic show at the ongoing Asia Cup could be simply attributed to the Pak girls very little international exposure as also very little cricket at domestic level. They don't play that many international games and we know that's why they cannot come up to terms with the requirements of the game at different junctures of the game while facing tougher outfits.
However, one is not totally disappointed in them, as with the passage of time and with increased international exposure they will definitely improve. Practice makes a (wo)man perfect. The more the international exposure, the more quality cricket from Pakistan women. As simple as that.
To conclude one may advise the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) women's wing to focus on future outings to let the women cricketers gain as much international experience as possible as it is the only way to salvage women's cricket in Pakistan.