End of an era!
groups needed to promote sports
Odds are stacked heavily against them but Pakistan can still shine in World Cup 2011.
What they need is an inspirational leader good enough to bring the best out of his players.
By Khalid Hussain
When Pakistan will launch their World Cup campaign with their opening game against minnows Kenya in the sleepy Sri Lankan town of Hambantota on February 23, much more will be stake for them than just the title.
Much more than even before, Pakistan need a shot in the arm to put themselves back on the track, regain their status as a major cricketing nation and above all save their reputation that has hit a new low because of a match-fixing scandal revolving around some of their brightest stars.
Alarmingly, more and more critics around the cricketing world are talking about how Pakistan are hurting cricket’s integrity and why they should be banned from the international game.
But thankfully, other saner voices are backing Pakistan with the belief that this country which has over the years given the world some of the most exciting of cricketers is still a vital member of the international cricket community and should remain as one in the future.
What we need is to prove our supporters right. We should use World Cup 2011 as a platform to reassert our credentials as cricketing force.
Pakistan can provide their cricket with a much-needed boost by winning the World Cup in spite of all odds though it would need a much bigger miracle that the one they produced under the legendary Imran Khan back in 1992.
At the moment, one sounds a bit too optimistic when discussing the possibility of Pakistan winning the World Cup to be played in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka from February 19-April 2.
After all, our team has gone through a major turmoil because of allegations of corruption against three of the country’s leading cricketers -- Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif.
Two more including former Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik have failed to secure clearance from the country’s cricket authorities apparently due to suspected links with match-fixers.
That’s not all.
Pakistan cricket is run by a team of incompetent officials, to say the least. With Ijaz Butt still sitting at the top as Pakistan Cricket Board’s chairman in spite of blundering on vital issues, again and again during his tenure that began in 2008, things do look a bit depressing from a Pakistan fan’s point of view.
The team’s performance in recent times isn’t reassuring either. Since winning the 2009 ICC World Twenty20 crown in England, Pakistan have mostly flirted with disaster. Their performance graph touched rock bottom in Australia. They failed in their World Twenty20 title defence in the Caribbean. They crashed out of the four-nation Asian Cup in Sri Lanka and were highly inconsistent on the tour of England. They’ve also failed to win any ODI series in quite a long time.
But that doesn’t mean Pakistan have no hope in the lead up to World Cup 2011.
They still have in their one-day squad players like Abdul Razzaq, Shahid Afridi, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal and Umar Akmal. On his day, each one of them can be a match-winner.
What Pakistan need is to have somebody at the helm who can bring the best out of these players and the rest of his teammates.
What Pakistan primarily need is a captain who can lead from the front and instill self-belief among his colleagues.
In a nutshell, what Pakistan need is someone who can successfully carry the sort of role that Imran Khan performed for them 18 year ago in Australia and New Zealand.
He may not be an ideal player for captaincy, but at the moment Shahid Afridi is Pakistan’s best bet as far as World Cup leadership is concerned.
Afridi, 30, is the most experienced player in our ODI squad and is widely seen as the man with the best credentials for captaincy among the current lot. He certainly has his drawbacks. Afridi’s tendency to just throw away his wicket every now and then has earned him many critics over the years. His decision to ‘chew’ the ball during a one-day game against Australia last year only added many more to that list.
But the flamboyant allrounder has the ability to completely transform himself into a reliable match-winner. He proved that by playing a major role in Pakistan’s successful World Twenty20 campaign in the summer of 2009. Later, he proved that again during last year’s Asia Cup in Sri Lanka when he hit two back-to-back centuries even as the wickets fell around him.
Pakistan need Afridi to be at his best in the World Cup, both as a captain and senior player. Odds are stacked heavily against the Pakistanis as they enter in the final stages of their World Cup preparations. They will have to fight like cornered tigers.
Afridi’s biggest job, apart from giving his best with both the bat and ball, will be to unite his players.
Some of the senior ones like Razzaq and Shoaib Akhtar are his close buddies. That should certainly help him. But it’s about the entire team. One can sense that there are still cracks within the team and with little time left to gel them together, Afridi will have to act fast. He should use the One-day International series against New Zealand to put his team back on track both in terms of results and team spirit.
Both are, in a way, interconnected. Good results are needed to promote harmony in the dressing room. Afridi will also have to ensure that his boys stick together even when swimming against the tide.
World Cup 2011 will produce enough testing times both for Afridi and his team. How they cope with them will decide how far they can go in the tournament.
Afridi has played in the last three World Cups and knows how it feels to qualify for the final and to get knocked out in the first round. He must be well aware that careers and reputations can be made or destroyed during the course of one such tournament.
Imran Khan is regarded among the world’s best allrounders of all time and yet many of us remember mostly as the man who led us to World Cup glory. Inzamam-ul-Haq is one of the finest batsmen Pakistan have ever produced but many of us remember him as the man who led us to disaster in World Cup 2007.
As Pakistan’s captain for World Cup 2011, Afridi could follow in the footsteps of either of those men. For the sake of Pakistan, one hopes he takes the right path.
Khalid Hussain is Editor Sports of The News, Karachi
Maybe, in one last hurrah, the talismanic footballer can play a starring role in World Cup 2014 in his native Brazil and win the coveted crown for the hosts
By Umaid Wasim
AC Milan have agreed, Ronaldinho has agreed and only the final details to which club the Brazilian ace decides to join in his homeland remain to be finalised. And when it is finalised, it will bring to a close a dazzling European decade for Ronaldinho in which he wowed crowds in Paris, Barcelona, Milan -- albeit in bits and pieces, and once in a night to remember in Madrid.
Barca fans, basking in the glory of their team’s style of play and a certain Lionel Messi, would surely have it rooted inside their hearts that what Ronaldinho did during his time at the Nou Camp can never be bettered by another player -- even Messi! And while many may not agree to that claim, the biggest difference between the two is purely the fact that while Messi had a ready-made team setup when he came into the spotlight, Ronaldinho took Barca from the depths of despair to global glory.
After arriving in Europe with French club Paris Saint Germain in 2001, Ronaldinho enjoyed a topsy-turvy first season at the capital club. Signed from Gremio, Ronaldinho showed some flashes of brilliance which were coupled with inconsistent performances before grabbing his share of the spotlight in 2002 FIFA World Cup on Korea-Japan with Brazil.
A looping free-kick left England goalkeeper David Seaman bamboozled in the quarter-final and sent Brazil into the semis. Although Ronaldinho got a red card in the match against England, and subsequently missed the semifinal against Turkey, he returned for the final in which the Selecao beat Germany to clinch their fifth World Cup crown.
Back at PSG after the World Cup, Ronaldinho did not inspire the Parisians much. Although he showed his dead-ball expertise occasionally, that skill only came to the fore when he joined Barcelona in 2003-04.
Under a new President in Joan Lapota and a new coach, Dutchman Frank Rijkaard, Barca were looking at the Brazilian attacker to inspire them to the top once again. Ronaldinho was touted as a potential successor to fellow Brazilian Rivaldo. Rivaldo had left Barcelona after the 2002 World Cup and the club finished sixth in the 2002-03 season. But with Ronaldinho at the club, there was renewed optimism at the club.
And although he struggled during his first six months at the club, the signing of midfield lynchpin Edgar Davids from Italian powerhouse Juventus on loan gave Ronaldinho the perfect foil to showcase his attacking potent.
And did he light up the Nou Camp!
Sensational footwork, brilliant dribbling and passing skills coupled with a superb eye for goal meant Ronaldinho single-handedly powered Barca up the standings and finish the season in second place.
And, next season, it was the European stage where he shone.
With Barca back in the UEFA Champions League, Ronaldinho showed his class during the group stage before a scintillating goal against Chelsea in the knockout round left many people wondering whether there was a better player than him on the planet.
Standing outside the box in front of Chelsea’s goal and closely guarded by John Terry, Ricardo Carvalho and Frank Lampard with almost no space to tread the ball through, the buck-toothed Brazilian moved his leg over the ball first left, and then right -- in a move that would have made a ballerina proud -- to create the space between Terry and Carvalho to slot in a deft chip that left goalkeeper Petr Cech rooted to the ground and stunned at that masterpiece of art.
Although Barca were eliminated from the Champions League after that match, they dominated domestically and won the La Liga title.
Next season though, both Barca and Ronaldinho were unstoppable.
And it showed another aspect of Ronaldinho’s game -- his jaw-dropping acceleration.
First arch-rivals Real Madrid suffered and then it was the turn of perennial Champions League foes Chelsea.
At the Santiago Bernabeu, in the first El Clasico of the season, Ronaldinho stunned Real in emphatic fashion as Barca romped home 3-0 with two superb individual efforts as he left Real’s backline trailing in his wake and received a standing ovation from Real Madrid supporters at the end of the match -- becoming the first Barca player to be given that honour.
And then it was Chelsea who suffered from a rampant Ronaldinho’s wrath.
Ronaldinho went past Lampard with rip-roaring pace and then shoved off the challenge from Terry as if the England defender was made of paper before firing past Cech to send the Nou Camp into a frenzy and put Barca well and truly on their way to Champions League glory.
They did that against Arsenal in Ronaldinho’s former home Parc Des Princes in Paris four months later to cap a memorable year for the Brazilian.
After winning the FIFA player of the Year award in 2004, Ronaldinho made it a fantastic double a year later and all the eyes were on the Brazilian to produce his magic at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
However, in a disappointing performance, Ronaldinho failed to inspire the Selecao as Brazil were knocked out by France in the quarter-finals.
Back at Barcelona, Ronaldinho continued with his usual bag of tricks and flicks but now Barca had been overtaken by Real Madrid domestically. Two below-par seasons followed before Ronaldinho was deemed surplus to requirements by new coach Pep Guardiola and shipped out to AC Milan in 2008.
But in what seemed to Ronaldinho’s European swansong, he failed to be the same force that he was during his time at the Nou Camp.
Overshadowed by Brazil colleague Kaka in the first season, Ronaldinho started to play on the left-wing. And even Kaka’s transfer to Real Madrid to following season did not provide an up-turn in fortune for the Brazilian.
Although, Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi wanted his team built around the Brazilian, Ronaldinho failed to live up to the pressures of being the nucleus of the team.
With his blinding pace now gone, Ronaldinho instead became more of a striker -- his position as an attacking midfielder purely nostalgic by now.
And although he topped Serie A charts for assists and racked up goals, Ronaldinho was not called up to the Brazil squad by coach Dunga for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
If that was a body blow for the Brazilian, he certainly never found the mark again for Milan. Lack of playing time at the club has been cited as the biggest reason for his departure.
Respect for Ronaldinho, though, has stayed. In a recent Champions League match against Real Madrid, Jose Mourinho, current Real coach and former Ronaldinho nemesis during his tenure at the Chelsea helm, gave him a warm hug when they met off the pitch.
On a brighter side though, new Brazil coach Mano Menezez has given him a recall.
And the 30-year-old is moving back to his native country in order to revive his faltering career so that he can be in contention for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Maybe Ronaldinho could revive his career.
Or, maybe, in one last hurrah, he can play a starring role in the 2014 World Cup in his native Brazil and win the coveted crown.
But one thing that will always stay is that Ronaldinho was truly exceptional -- the best of the best!
Umaid Wasim works as a sub-editor at The News, Karachi
Investment groups needed to promote sports
By Arshad Shami
After winning an Olympic gold medal in light heavyweight class, Muhammad Ali (formerly Cassius Clay), was lucky to get the support of an 11-member investment group, called Louisville Group, comprising of distinguished group of investors to act as his management team and offer him the security to develop professionally in exchange for a share of future profits.
Each member of the group contributed $2800 and were brought together by Investment councilor William Faversham and not only did they promote him to become the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time but provided him financial security as well.
Sports in Pakistan are beset by financial problems. Promotion of games like boxing, wrestling, squash and athletics has been very difficult in the absence of promoters.
In Pakistan, there are several business houses and banks which have allocated large funds to promote already well-financed games like cricket and to some extent hockey but unfortunately nothing has been done to provide funds for these games in which we have all the prospects and chances of winning international laurels.
When the government provided Rs 20 million to the Pakistan Boxing Federation (PBF) for preparing its team for the Commonwealth games, our boxers were able to win several medals.
Banks, Army, WAPDA and other government departments have promoted sports but their support is only limited to cricket, hockey, squash while some corporations tried to help boxers in the past but soon backed out. It is a shame that we have to borrow cricket and hockey stadiums to hold our National Games. No efforts have been made to have track and field facilities in some bigger cities if not all over the country.
Some 40 years ago, national coaching centres in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad were set up. But today, these centres are in total disarray.
The first director General of Karachi’s National Coaching and Training Centre Khawaja Saleem Ahmad, former Director Physical Educational Karachi University, took special interest in developing these facilities.
But with his departure, the centre was hardly used for promoting sports. Today these centres are without much activity and the coaches that were appointed way back in 1970s have retired and new coaches have not been appointed in their places.
It is time that we inspire some investment groups to develop groups like the Louisville Group for mutual benefit. Not only these groups will help promote these games but will also be able make money.
Let us hope some of the investors, in the national interest, will heed this proposal and launch a fund to promote such games which do not have the financial resources but have the potential to help Pakistan win laurels for the country.