Three golds, three cheers

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At the ongoing Asian sporting spectacle, the Pakistani athletes surprised us by producing a golden treble. So steep has been the fall of Pakistan sports that such a performance was indeed unanticipated. That explains why the sense of wonder and unadulterated joy is spread not just amongst the enthusiasts but across the whole country. For a nation so deprived of good news from any quarter, this undeniably is something to cheer and take pride in. The two silver and three bronze medals for an overall tally of eight also make Pakistan finish around the middle, at 20, instead of bringing up the rear in the 36-nation gala. And that easily makes it our brightest moment since the six gold haul that our athletes managed in 1990 at Beijing.

While the two number one finishes, in womens cricket and the squash doubles, are remarkable in their own right, the quite unexpected rise to continental numero uno in hockey a position 25 years back we took for granted but had failed to clinch for two decades is of much significance. Once hailed as a nation that was to hockey what Brazil is to soccer, Pakistan had hit rock bottom. After the wooden spoon at the World Cup earlier this year, many had written its epitaph. In that backdrop, this resurgence is welcome for it straightaway earns the greenshirts a berth at the 2012 London Olympics, saving it from the tortuous and humiliating rounds in order to qualify. Though not quite the same as victory in a global event, this win underscores that with dedication Pakistan hockey could claw its way back to the top. That is provided it is managed in a manner equal to its status in our sporting folklore and our pride of place in the games worldwide legend.

In the euphoria that sporting achievement invariably brings, this needs to be remembered that our sporting system has continued to remain grossly mismanaged and seriously starved of investment. Whatever our athletes achieved at Guangzhou was in spite of our public and private sporting bureaucracy and not because of it. It is high time that a more enabling environment is provided to our sportsmen to present what every political dispensation in the last 10 years stated to be its priority: projecting the soft image of the country to the world.