Once the high wears off, and it does take a while to wear off, the javelin throw of Arshad Nadeem at the Commonwealth Games being quite spectacular there is a feeling of déjà vu that sets in. Because there had been a national conversation about the sorry state of the sports and athletics infrastructure in the country when Nadeem had qualified for the final of the Olympics earlier this year. Back then, report upon report in the newspapers and on TV had contrasted the state support (or lack thereof) that Nadeem had received against the extremely well-trained Neeraj Chopra, who went on to win the gold medal.
And now, we are having the exact same conversation all over again. Back then, the nation was impressed by how this young lad just did it all by himself and became the first Pakistani track and field athlete to directly qualify for the Olympics, and titillated us with the prospect of the wonders he could do if given some proper attention. Things would change from now on, we were told. Well, the Mian Channu boy did perform wonders, but again, without proper patronage. In Pakistan, the few athletes who thrive, do so despite the state, not because of it.
The nation’s sports bureaucracy is an absolute mess. With politicians, civil bureaucrats and military officers more than willing to be on the boards for foreign junkets but not for actually rolling up their sleeves and doing something to develop an infrastructure to foster talent. There is a common gripe in the country, a well placed one, that sports other than cricket don’t get proper attention in the country. Well, the management and bureaucracy of that sport is also far from ideal, with cabals competing for influence at the expense of better cricketers getting their due.
Arshad Nadeem has done us proud. But we have failed him.