cricket
Learn it from the Aussies
"When you reflect on the history of sport in this country and you reflect on how it has been ingrained into the nation's soul, you cannot separate the two. Our sporting heroes are part of the soul of the Australian nation. And you know that from the soul of the nation comes the spirit of the nation." --Kevin Rudd, Australian Prime Minister
By Khalid Hussain
Back in the 1930s, Australians had little to cheer about following the Great Depression. But then they fell in love with sports or rather a little bloke in a baggy green cap called Don Bradman.

Will the Phoenix ever rise from the ashes of Pakistan cricket?
By Dr Nauman Niaz
In this write-up, in my own estimation, I would like to elaborate that the recent chastisement of Pakistan cricketers wasn't really a reflection of a philosophy of apt management. It, as manifested was more based on whimsicality, retaliation, vengeance and idiocy. It depicted the irrational, and considerably unsystematic, historicity of Mr Ijaz Butt's time in power. And if I intend reinforcing the cynicism with reference to alleged involvement of players in match-fixing, then I would of course be frazzled and intrinsically humiliated if out of all Younis Khan wasn't above board. He shouldn't be part of such rotten occurrences.

Germans fail to create history
The 12th Hockey World Cup concluded in Delhi earlier this month with Australia winning the crown. TNS brings you some interesting stuff on the showpiece event.
Durability:
-De Nooijer, the Dutch captain was playing his fifth World Cup.

I demand equal treatment for Tennis: Saeed Hai
'The News on Sunday' spoke to Saeed Hai, Pakistan's most celebrated Davis Cup captain who has played in three Grand Slam tennis tournaments to uncover the importance of the Davis Cup and other issues.

'I want to be in South Africa'
With the World Cup less than three months away, some of the biggest football players are still fighting for a place in their national squads

By Umaid Wasim
The biggest news over the recent week was that of David Beckham tearing his Achilles tendon while playing for AC Milan against Chievo Verona in the Serie A -- an injury that ended the England superstar's World Cup dream. He was there or there about in Fabio Capello's squad for the spectacle in South Africa even though he would have been resigned to warming the bench for England.

Blackout in sports
By Aamir Bilal
Load-shedding in Pakistan has become a routine matter, and many parts of the country are now use to implicit blackout exercises every night. These exercises remind me of 1971 Indo-Pak war, when we as kids use to play hide and seek during the expected enemy air raids. But those blackouts were an act of necessity for the safety of common man. I never thought that we would grow as adults in an era where blackouts will become physical, emotional, psychological, intellectual, ethical and even sporty in nature.

 

 

 

 

cricket

Learn it from the Aussies

"When you reflect on the history of sport in this country and you reflect on how it has been ingrained into the nation's soul, you cannot separate the two. Our sporting heroes are part of the soul of the Australian nation. And you know that from the soul of the nation comes the spirit of the nation." --Kevin Rudd, Australian Prime Minister

By Khalid Hussain

Back in the 1930s, Australians had little to cheer about following the Great Depression. But then they fell in love with sports or rather a little bloke in a baggy green cap called Don Bradman.

Just a few decades later, Australia -- in spite of its small population -- emerged as one of the biggest powerhouse in the field of sports. Today, it's one of the world's most successful nation in cricket and is bracketed right there with Olympic superpowers such as the United States, China and Russia.

Australia, with a population of 20 million, is the country credited for hosting history's most successful Olympic Games -- in 2000 in Sydney. It finished fourth in the medal tally at the Sydney Games and was up there with the superpowers again at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and in Beijing in 2008.

More recently, Australia won the Hockey World Cup in Delhi where Pakistan -- record four-time world champions -- plunged to a catastrophic last-place finish.

It's the sort of contrast that also exists in other sports like cricket in which the Aussies just crushed us when we played them in three Tests, five One-day Internationals and a Twenty20 game in what was a disastrous tour. Even Australia's colts beat our much-fancied youngsters in the final of the ICC Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand earlier this year.

Things weren't so bad for Pakistan as far as their sporting rivalry against Australia is concerned. Our cricketers won the World Cup on Australian soil in 1992 and our hockey players claimed the last of their four world trophies in Sydney two years later. Our squash legends Jahangir Khan and Jansher Khan used to make short work of their Australian counterparts Chris Dittmar, Rodney Martin and Brett Martin in the eighties and the nineties.

Why is that the two nations with a common passion for sports are performing so differently in the field sports these days?

It could be a long debate but the simple answer is that the Aussies have over the years developed and adopted a sports culture that is second to none. They've evolved a system that sniffs out young blood, grooms it and then places it on the world stage to win laurels for their country.

Aussie leaders like former Prime Minister Paul Keating, John Howard and the current premier Kevin Rudd have always treated sports as one of their top priorities. They know the importance of sports to build a nation's morale.

In a speech at the Hall of Fame Sport Awards in 2008, Rudd commented: "When you reflect on the history of sport in this country and you reflect on how it has been ingrained into the nation's soul, you cannot separate the two.

"Our sporting heroes are part of the soul of the Australian nation. And you know that from the soul of the nation comes the spirit of the nation. Let me say, the inspiration of our sportsmen and women becomes even more important."

For them sport is a part of Australia's very soul.

The reason why I've chosen Australia to draw comparison with Pakistan is that the two countries have a lot of similarities. Both share a history in games like cricket, hockey and squash. People in the two countries have a passion of sports and very competitive.

But Australia have cashed on their plus points and are the ruling the sports world but Pakistan, in contrast, have touched rock bottom.

The major reasons behind our decline are plain and simple. In Pakistan, we are too complacent and love to live in the past. For several years, it seemed enough for us that we were once the most successful nation in squash and hockey. We were happy of our victories on the cricket ground. Nobody really sat up and noticed that things were slowly but surely falling apart. Good results in the sporting arena had become and far between even in the nineties.

And in 2010 Pakistan sport has touched its nadir. And it's time that we started learning from the Aussies.

Early this year, when I was touring Australia with the cricket team I took out time to go and watch a couple of Greenshield matches in suburban Sydney. Now Greenshield is Australia's national cricket tournament for young players. In one of the matches, the team batting first -- Western Suburbs -- lost their top seven batters for just around 40 runs on a greentop in overcast conditions. The team's captain -- Suffan ul Hassan, a youngster of Pakistani origin -- told me that if his boys got to 100 they could win the match. "We've got a real good bowling attack, you know," he told me. His tail-enders batted for more than 35 overs and didn't hit a single rash shot. "Our coach has sent them this message to just play it straight," the captain informed me. His team did manage to score a little more than 100 and went on to lose by a solitary wicket in the last over against Randwick-Petersham District Club.

The reason why I've mentioned that match is to underline the Australian approach to cricket. I was told by one of the coaches that during practice matches for youngsters, there are no boundary lines. It is done to discourage the boys from going for the boundaries and they learn this lesson that staying on the wicket was much more important.

Two days later, when I watched Pakistan's batting line crumbling against Australia to lose the second Test in Sydney from a winnable position, I could see why Test cricket isn't about hitting the sixes and the fours. It's about the test of character and unfortunately our sportsmen lack it these days.

In Australia, there are state-of-the-art academies in every state. Coaches are well trained and the facilities are well-equipped. The fact that there is a rich sports culture in almost every locality makes it easy for sports administrators to spot talented youngsters.

"In Australia, we take sports really seriously," said one cricket coach attached with a local academy. "It's about competing with the rest of the world and it's about winning."

That's the sort of approach that has done wonders for Australia. Is the officialdom of Pakistan sports listening?

 

By Dr Nauman Niaz

In this write-up, in my own estimation, I would like to elaborate that the recent chastisement of Pakistan cricketers wasn't really a reflection of a philosophy of apt management. It, as manifested was more based on whimsicality, retaliation, vengeance and idiocy. It depicted the irrational, and considerably unsystematic, historicity of Mr Ijaz Butt's time in power. And if I intend reinforcing the cynicism with reference to alleged involvement of players in match-fixing, then I would of course be frazzled and intrinsically humiliated if out of all Younis Khan wasn't above board. He shouldn't be part of such rotten occurrences.

On the other side, Butt's inability to make an impact disappoints us. His decisions were, in an unending sequence elementary blunders that, one might have hoped, his unformed cricketers, about whom he didn't really patronize and actually disproved their 'status' by unthinkingly implementing the recommendations of a committee existence of which itself was questionable? And subsequently, Mohsin Khan, the newly installed chairman of selectors announced a headless Pakistan team. Announcement of captain was delayed, and with the pun intended, the bookies must have adored Butt for providing them the space to bet and predict about who could he be?

Butt didn't show that his decisions and the seething anarchy against believingly 'undisciplined' and 'power-abusing' players were relative. He needed to deal with consistency and promptly if there were any parochial differences between the tour management and also if there were rebellious players trying to stand up to PCB's authority. He should have known that to be an acceptable administrator he needed to evolve credibility in whatever he did; most of his decisions, he not only backtracked but also showed capricious inconsistency appointing captains and chairmen of selectors in a sequence of musical chairs.

And, also he slipped into intrigues by actually allowing audience to an aspirant of captaincy (Shahid Afridi) against team's the then incumbent captain (Younis Khan). It was like being part of players' politics. Being in the centre of controversies and not shamed appointing his friends in positions of power, he suddenly backpedaled and backstabbed his own pupil, so it seems after the implementation of anarchic committee recommendations. Where were the visual, audio, anecdotal, circumstantial, confessional evidence or alibis? Why a judicial commission couldn't be incorporated in case the PCB had solid evidence against the players allegedly being drawn in match-fixing.

The recommendations weren't certainty, everyday happenings at the PCB have to be eliminated from any meaningful statement of truth, including propositions dealing with player matter, after all is said, logic is Butt's logic, his own creation. Unfortunately, for him, the use of such irrational tools in decision-making has nothing at all to do with how closely statements approach certainty the use of ordinary people on board does not support any of Butt's inferences about the current shambolic state of Pakistan cricket.

On a parallel track, there is also an increasing realisation that rationality couldn't be resurrected and consequently nostalgia for what was so sublime in the past but now in a flawed system, preventing cricketers to identify their role and commitment to play for the blazer and their country. The PCB were severe on at least eight cricketers but glaringly they were using the word 'indiscipline' and Ijaz Butt forgot in the process that his own house was in a disastrous state reportedly, such as Barrister Farooq Hasan lodged claims for Rs5.5m as damages (soaring up to US$92,000) against the Pakistan Cricket Board on not paying his fee.

PCB had reportedly promised him US$500 per hour but he wasn't paid. Isn't that lack of moral worth and blatant indiscipline? So where is PCB's credibility? And credence is one thing that is glaringly missing in the PCB top-tier since they haven't a clue evolving a foreign policy. In their attempt to stand by the players on Indian Premier Leagues' rebut to the Pakistan cricketers they had tried, again unwisely as in case of the World Cup 2011 controversy, reaching the ICC. It amplified that ICC was absolutely unsympathetic to the current PCB and how could the players be reassured that their governing body could help them in crises.

Regrettably, the indecisiveness of Butt was evident, and the power of his 'ill-advisors' people like Yawar Saeed disseminates into his decision making and bald-facedly the appointment of captain for World T20 was deferred. And anyone and everyone in line for Pakistan's captaincy has a 'tail' some unacceptable to the players, the others not untainted. It is eminently clear that the PCB is in a shambolic fit whilst the team is absolutely wrecked.

It is equally bewildering that a gentleman who was reportedly seen with suspicion, an official of the team was sacked and called back from Emirates has now been promoted and positioned as General Manager Administration and HR. And more so, another interesting episode that shows Butt's pure-bred state of confusion is the fact that Senior General Manager Finance was asked to make the reductions concerning the fines imposed on the players by the committee.

He promptly acted upon the orders and the next day news leaked in the media. He was again summoned and questioned about the filtering of the news in the newspapers. He denied being privy to the route of leakage and in his defense tried explaining that the concerned players were clued-up about the deductions made. And with contempt he was told that why had he divulged the information to the cricketers.

How short can memories get? About nine months ago, amid the wreckage of a miserable state, Younis Khan was a hero, and now the Chairman PCB was questioning the number of marbles at his disposal. Younis's strength and overt eccentricity couldn't accomplish him as a hard driven no-nonsense captain while Afridi was at play, ambitiously setting his eyes on captaincy, as alleged. As truth may well be told Younis was at loggerheads with the strangely diplomatic and highly manipulative Yawar. And such was the distrust between that that he supported Afridi arranging an exclusive meeting with Ijaz Butt; who was being disruptive, Yawar or Younis? Wasn't this an act of conspiring against the team captain, treason or a whole set of intrigues. Who instigated indiscipline? Yawar!

Later and all, even Yawar couldn't handle and a straightjacket might have been proffered, everything is doom and gloom; so much for proportional representation. What do the PCB and Yawar have in common? Both are works in progress, flawed, unpromising, and not better than the sum of their wonky parts.

Let's contextualise what he didn't get right, most notably his selfishness and the olden rusted philosophy of 'divide and rule' saw him inflicting a colossal damage on the team's unity. If anyone warranted a life ban it was him instead of being asked to sit on the committee and destroying Younis' career.

The complexity of the PCB's relationship with the ICC and India is the puzzle at the heart of many issues. It seemed to be in good health until Butt was installed as Chairman of the PCB, more because of his political clout than the demand. And particularly the Indian Premier League is the hypnotist's watch dangling in front of the eyes of the Pakistan Cricket Board. How could the phoenix rise from the ashes of Pakistan cricket?

 

Germans fail to create history

The 12th Hockey World Cup concluded in Delhi earlier this month with Australia winning the crown. TNS brings you some interesting stuff on the showpiece event.

Durability:

-De Nooijer, the Dutch captain was playing his fifth World Cup.

-Dutch manager, Ties Kruize appeared in all the first six World Cups as a player.

Consistency:

-Germany has appeared in the semifinals of all the last 11 World Cups (including this one).

Confidence:

-Germany had the youngest team here with an average age of less than 23.

-Germany had only three players from their winning squad of 2006 World Cup.

Just failing to create history:

- If they had won the final, Germany would have completed a hat-trick of World Cup victories; an unprecedented feat.

- German captain Maximilian Muller was been a member of the last two World Cup winning teams. If Germany had won the final, Muller would have been only the second man in history to be a member of three World Cup winning squads. The first to do so was Pakistan's Akhtar Rasool.

The most improved team:

- England reached the World Cup semi final for only the second time and for the first time outside their country.

-They managed to do that despite losing a number of players through injuries. Simon Mantell and Matt Daly on the eve of the World Cup and then the influential deep defender, Richard Mantell during the third match.

The most unexpected finish:

- The record four time champions, Pakistan had the ignominy of getting the wooden spoon.

The worst result ever:

-When South Africa lost to Australia 0-12, it was the heaviest defeat for any team in the World Cup's history.

The biggest comeback:

-But in the very next match, South Africa bounced back to beat Pakistan, the record four time champions.

A continent's disappointment:

-Only for the third time no Asian team featured in the semi finals. The only other occasions were 1986 and 1998.

Then kings, now paupers:

-The manager and coach of the last placed Pakistan team, Asif Bajwa and Shahid Ali Khan both have been World Cup winners in the past, Bajwa in 1994 and Khan in 1982.

Non-dependency:

-Teams with the best penalty corner conversion rates, Germany and England, are not dependent on a single drag flicker and also have no fearsome name like Taekema, Abbas, etc among their ranks.

That defeat would haunt us:

-The third ranked Spain surprisingly lost to Pakistan who eventually finished last, a defeat which cost them the semi final spot.

The most influential video referral:

-With score at 2-2, India scores against South Africa. The Africans asked for a video referral related to a 'foul' committed in Indian circle moments back. The third umpire cancels the Indian goal and awards a penalty corner to South Africa who cash on it. The score board which showed 3-2 before the referral now displayed 2-3.

The master coach:

-The victorious coach of the Australian team in this World Cup, Richard Charlesworth has coached the Australian women team to two World Cup victories and same number of Olympic golds. He also has a World Cup winner medal (1986) as a player.

Post-Match conference:

-A coach unaware of his team's ranking. Pakistani coach Shahid Ali Khan in a post match press conference told his team is probably ranked eighth or ninth (their FIH ranking is seventh).

Koreans' interpreter was herself not much conversant with English causing a lot of confusion. This led to a change of interpreter after first three matches.

India's Spanish Brasa was most popular with his answers interspersed with wit, humour and Hindi words.

Korean coach's hearty laughter before answering most of the questions made him also a favourite of the journalists. --Ijaz Chaudhry

 

I demand equal

treatment for Tennis: Saeed Hai

'The News on Sunday' spoke to Saeed Hai, Pakistan's most celebrated Davis Cup captain who has played in three Grand Slam tennis tournaments to uncover the importance of the Davis Cup and other issues.

The News on Sunday: When did Davis cup start and what was the main aim of staging this contest?

Saeed Hai: Davis cup, more popularly known as International lawn tennis championship, started in 1900 had its origin in the rivalry between British and American tennis players. Now about 140 countries participate annually in this great event. The country winning the Davis Cup is truly the World champion and the aim of the championship is to develop friendly relations between nations.

TNS: How important is the position of captain of Davis cup team?

SH: The job of the captain is highly technical and the captain plays a major role is guiding the team during the competition. Apart from that, the captain must be well-versed with the rules formulated by the International tennis federation to run this important event.

In a normal tennis match, outside guidance is totally banned to a player whereas in the Davis Cup the captain sits on the court to guide his players.

TNS: You have played in Wimbledon, US and French Open tennis championships and have been Pakistan's most successful Davis cup captain, what are or should be the qualities of a good captain?

SH: This is a very important question you have asked. The selection of Davis Cup captain should not be like a game of musical chairs. Any captain appointed for the job must have the following qualifications and the amount or degree of qualifications:

1. First an foremost the captain should be an international player of repute and must have excellent playing knowledge of the game.

2. Have a good personality, cheerful demeanour and be shrewd at the same time.

3. Must be an expert strategist.

4. Must have a keen desire to win.

5. Inherent respectability and is capable of maintaining discipline.

6. Must be open to suggestions and consult team members.

TNS: Why is there a non-playing captain instead of a playing one?

SH: There is no bar to have a captain who is actually participating in the match but in my opinion it is foolish to have a playing captain. A captain has to sit on the tennis court throughout the match which is a very exhausting experience. The captain who is watching the game can give his best when he is called upon to play.

TNS: How to prepare the Davis Cup team?

SH: The most important preparation is to make your team play against players who are better. For Pakistan, the most important thing is to let players participate in as many foreign tournaments as possible.

Another important side of preparing the Davis Cup team is physical training. A Davis Cup player should be able to run 6-10 miles to be able to play comfortably 10 sets in practice. Weight training has to be done to strengthen the muscles that are used in playing tennis. Diet too is very important. A proper diet should consist of 80% complex carbohydrates. 10% proteins (Fish or chicken) and 10% may consist of simple carbohydrate.

TNS: What training regime is followed by Davis cup team in Pakistan?

SH: Due to the paucity of funds, we are unable to expose our players to foreign competition. Before the Davis Cup matches, camps are held to train the players. The players should, however, be exposed to different kinds of players which is only possible if the players are sent out to participate in a satellite circuit or Asian circuit.

TNS: How would you compare the winner of Davis cup final and the winner of world cup in Cricket?

SH: There is no comparison since the Davis Cup winning country is truly a world Champion. In world cup cricket only 7-8 countries participate while in Davis Cup features 110 countries.

TNS: How many gold medals are offered in tennis in Olympics and Asian games?

SH: This is a very good question and when you come to know the medals offered, the press will then make a case that tennis should be encouraged at all levels in the country as there are more than eight gold medals that can be won in the said games.

TNS: Did you have to qualify for grand slam events? How did you train yourself for them?

SH: All Grand Slam events are best-of-five matches. Since I was studying in England and after I came back from work, I used to run five miles daily. I was a member of the Queens club in London -- the only Pakistan player to become the member of the most prestigious tennis club of England -- and was also a member of Priory club, Birmingham. I practiced at both these clubs and my practice partner at Queens Club was world renowned Tennis player J Drobny.

I qualified for Wimbledon Singles by playing three best-of-five set matches. In doubles, I was given a direct entry as my partner was Byron Block from Rhodesia and my mixed doubles partner was Geogie Woodgate with whom I won several English mixed doubles tournaments. After qualifying, I got direct entry in singles for three US Open Championships.

TNS: We have learnt that you were given a service to tennis award by International Tennis Federation in 1986. Tell us abut the award.

SH: I was given the award at the ITF general council meeting in Lausanne for serving the cause of tennis in the country and playing three Grand Slam events. I have captained Pakistan 31 times

TNS: Has the Government of Pakistan given you any award or reward for your excellent record as a player and organiser?

SH: No! I feel it is a case of clear injustice by the government and I am thinking of bringing this point before the Honourable President of Pakistan for justice purely on the merit of the case. If fame has to come after death, I am in no hurry.

TNS: I believe you are biased against cricket, hockey, squash...

SH: No! Not at all but tennis should not be overlooked by the government and should be given equal treatment as given to games mentioned above.

 

'I want to be in South Africa'

With the World Cup less than three months away, some of the biggest football players are still fighting for a place in their national squads

By Umaid Wasim

The biggest news over the recent week was that of David Beckham tearing his Achilles tendon while playing for AC Milan against Chievo Verona in the Serie A -- an injury that ended the England superstar's World Cup dream. He was there or there about in Fabio Capello's squad for the spectacle in South Africa even though he would have been resigned to warming the bench for England.

It wasn't that Beckham had not tried. He left the Major League Soccer (MLS) in their off-season to come to Milan on a six-month loan just to prove Capello that he was not yet a spent force. Looking to become the first English footballer to feature in four World Cups, Beckham was heading in the right direction.

A return to Old Trafford for Milan's round of 16 Champions League clash with Manchester United saw Beckham applauded by the United faithful in an emotional return. His volley after United had virtually booked their quarter-final place drew appraisal from Martin Tyler in the commentary box. "He's always had textbook technique," Tyler said. And just when Beckham looked to be on his way into the England squad, injury struck -- dealing a fatal blow to his World Cup ambitions.

Beckham left the San Siro in tears; he knew his World Cup dream was in jeopardy and two days later, it was confirmed. Beckham would be out of the World Cup. His desire to be in South Africa for the quadrennial extravaganza was unmatched. Beckham, though, is not the only high-profile footballer who looks to be missing out on the trip to South Africa due to injury. Joining him on the sidelines would be his England teammate Michael Owen, and the Portuguese duo of Pepe and Jose Bosingwa. Players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Christian Chivu and Darren Fletcher will miss the showpiece because their countries have not qualified for the much-awaited spectacle.

However, there are players who are truly world-class and are on the fringes of their national teams' squads for the World Cup. They are not injured but share Beckham's drive of being a part of football's greatest stage. Here is a list of those players and an evaluation of their chances of being in South Africa.

Ronaldinho (Brazil)

The buck-toothed Brazilian has been off-colour for the last three seasons. Ronaldinho failed to repeat the performances that were so common of him during his time at Barcelona where he was FIFA Player of the Year in 2005 and 2006 after his move to AC Milan in 2008. He has been constantly dropped by Brazil coach Dunga since he does not favour the Brazilian's attacking prowess. Even though he has showed glimpses of his former self over the last few months; Dinho, one of the stars of Brazil's World Cup winning campaign of 2002 along with Ronaldo and Rivaldo, looks very likely to feature in this summer's extravaganza even though he has expressed his desire to play for the Selecao till the 2014 World Cup which would be held in Brazil.

Raul (Spain)

Spain's all-time record national goal-scorer with 44 goals from 102 caps, Raul has never really made his mark at a Euro or World Cup and he was not selected for his country's Euro 2008 triumph. Now 32, and having not played for Spain since September 2006 it seems unlikely Vicente Del Bosque will call upon his services as a reserve to world class first choice strike pair Fernando Torres and David Villa.

Mario Balotelli (Italy)

The temperamental Inter Milan striker's hopes of earning a ticket to South Africa have been dealt a sever blow with Italy coach Marcello Lippi suggesting earlier in the week that he would not pick Balotelli just to prove he is not a racist. Balotelli, whose parents are of a Ghanaian descent, has refused to play for Ghana. Regarded as one of the hottest prospects in World football, Balotelli might be one unlucky one missing out of the World Cup.

Antonio Cassano (Italy)

The Sampdoria playmaker shares a similar attitude to that of Balotelli. At Samp, Cassano seems to have put his problems behind to emerge as the club's top performer over that last season. Lippi has been facing a Cassano headache over recent weeks but it wouldn't be a surprise if he decides to include him as he may look to add some flair to his squad for the South Africa spectacle.

Juan Roman Riquelme (Argentina)

Argentina were often hampered in qualifying due to a lack of creativity in the final third, and many called for the Boca Juniors playmaker to be included in the squad. Diego Maradona has not seen eye to eye with Riquelme for some time, however, due to the fact that the 31-year-old quit the national team. Arguably one of the best midfield generals around, his chances of being in the World Cup depend on a dramatic improvement in relations with Argentina's footballing god, Maradona.

Ruud van Nistelrooy (Netherlands)

The former Manchester United hitman left Real Madrid for Hamburg in January to aid his World Cup chances. He may have lost his prolific touch with aging but nevertheless he still is a force to be reckoned with. He would be competing for the striker's position with Dirk Kuyt and Robin Van Persie but Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk might just pick him for his experience at football's top level.

Amauri (Italy or Brazil)

The Juventus forward could have made a late bid for World Cup football with either birthplace Brazil or adopted home Italy. His dreadful form over the last year, partly to blame for Juve's alarming slide, means a ticket to South Africa with either nations (and the lack of an Italian passport after months of waiting) looks very, very unlikely.

 

Blackout in sports

By Aamir Bilal

Load-shedding in Pakistan has become a routine matter, and many parts of the country are now use to implicit blackout exercises every night. These exercises remind me of 1971 Indo-Pak war, when we as kids use to play hide and seek during the expected enemy air raids. But those blackouts were an act of necessity for the safety of common man. I never thought that we would grow as adults in an era where blackouts will become physical, emotional, psychological, intellectual, ethical and even sporty in nature.

2010 has virtually proved to be a "Blackout year" for Pakistan. Except few gold medals from the under power SAF games, no good news has seen the doors of Pakistan sports. A bad omen was in cricket when terrorists attacked the Sri Lankan Cricket team in Lahore before Pakistan's fate in Australia and Sri Lanka. Pakistan hockey with a pathetic performance in 2010 Hockey World Cup, finishing at the bottom amongst twelve top teams and broke the hearts of millions of hockey enthusiasts in the country. The fate of sports for 2010 was ultimately sealed when Pakistan Olympic Association finally called of the National Games to be held in Peshawar this month due to terrorist threat to the games.

It seems that gods of ancient Olympics have cast their curse on Pakistan sports and it's miserable managers who were hiding behind the success of their predecessors since several years in different sport federations, boards, and federal and provincial sport ministries. The honeymoon period in Pakistan sport has ended on a sad note and anyone now opting to join the turbulent bandwagon will have some serious challenges to face and deliver out of the box to satisfy the angry sport lovers and critical sports media of the country.

The country is facing extenuating circumstances. The struggle to put bread on the table gets tougher by the day and sport in the backdrop of depleting national income and worst security situation remains at the bottom rung. Above all it is the lack of political will and unavailability of sport management experts in the country that has given way to an age old group of ex-national and international players who are clinging to national sport federations, playing an unending game of musical chairs.

I have great respect for the ex-champions who brought respect and recognition to Pakistan at different international forums and I hope that someday their murals will be placed in hall of fames and videos of their successful matches be shown to next generations, however it would be unfair to expect any kind of managerial, marketing or coaching excellence from them in the modern day sports.

We need immediate relief and abrupt results which are next to impossible. There are no shortcuts to success in international sports and if we can't mend our ways and face the realities than its better not to dream of any worthwhile success.

If the decision makers have practically decided to use sport as a non serious matter like many other serious issues in the country, then it is imperative upon the civil society to bring the light and hope back to the sports through sport for all initiatives to mitigate this blackout.

The lack of understanding of what sport is and what sport can do to contribute to the general well-being of the nation is mostly misunderstood in developing countries like ours.

The attitude of those who rule and govern and the state of the economy and security in the country, unfortunately, have a bearing too on how much freedom we have to learn and apply from the life skills we acquire from and through sport.

The challenges are daunting. But looking at other developing countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, Cameron, Senegal and even Bangladesh one gets the feeling that either we have gone absolutely buzzard or totally blind, unable to see and learn from our surroundings or we are so corrupt intellectually that we are not interested to go into details and learn and apply the best sports practices in the world. Adoption of these practices does not necessarily require financial resources but the intellectual resources and those who try to build there soft capacities are branded as bookish by the uneducated sport mafia of the country who have made a mockery of this sport system.

If Pakistan Sports has to revive its glory and look beyond the greens of Cricket than a lot of hard work is needed. We immediately require a three prong strategy to salvage some pride. At first, putting in place a comprehensive sport policy framework. Secondly, sport must be made mandatory in education institutions starting from University to secondary school. As a third and immediate step the government should announce a policy where by all public and private sector organizations, under their CSR obligation must earmark at least 3 to 4 per cent of their profit income for sport development during next ten years.

Remember that there is no dearth of talent in any sport in the country and yet some light is left at the end of tunnel to thwart the looming dangers of complete and "sudden death." Perhaps some extra time has been granted by the angry gods of sport. Yet, another failure to realise the real issues of sport development, will give the charging bull of time a final and complete chance to crush us from the scene of sport map for once and all.

Aamir Bilal is a qualified coach

[email protected]



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