The federal government continues to ignore national athletes’ bid to qualify for Olympic 2020 and boxing is the latest casualty of this policy. Due to a lack of support from the federal government and reluctance of the corporate sector to back Olympic sports, Pakistan Boxing Federation (PBF) decided to send only three boxers and one coach for the Asia and Oceania Olympic Qualifying round which will begin in Jordan’s capital Amman.

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The PBF required to send a full-fledged squad to Jordan but financial matters and lack of sponsors hurt its cause. The ministry for Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC), which handles sports matters, did not even provide facilities to national fighters for training. They had to train at the Army Sports Complex, Rawalpindi, for a couple of months.

The PBF early this month had requested Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) to provide hostel facilities to national fighters in Peshawar so that they could train in a different environment for a few days but the Board did not respond.

This correspondent tried to contact senior officials of the PSB but they were not available for comments. Asia and Oceania qualifiers are very important. There was a need to fielding a full-fledged squad which could have boosted the country’s qualifying chances for the Tokyo Olympic.

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“Yes, we aimed to field more boxers but could not do so as sponsors also did not back us despite hectic efforts, PBF secretary Col Nasir Tung told ‘The News’. Now we have decided to send three boxers, Mohammad Asif (52kg), Gul Zeb (69kg) and Mehmood-ul-Hasan (75kg), for the Jordan qualifiers. Arshad Hussain will be associated with the squad as a coach,” Nasir said.

He also revealed that the squad would leave for Jordan. Nasir also skipped the Asian boxing forum slated to be held on March 6 on the sideline of the qualifiers to ensure boxers’ presence in the qualifiers. I have managed some money from my own pocket and borrowed some from friends to ensure Pakistan’s participation in the event. We have done our best with the available resources. I still expect positive results.

However, he was quick to add that it all would depend on the draws. If we got good draws, then things could go in our favor. In the 52kg there are six seats at pole while in the 69kg and 75kg there are five seats up for taking. The qualifiers are being contested in eight weight groups. National boxers will also have a chance of pressing for Tokyo Olympic seats when they feature in the World Qualifying round in Paris in May.

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The country’s leading karateka Saadi Abbas is also fighting for an Olympic 2020 seat without the assistance of the state. Australia-based horse-rider Usman Khan and Olympian judoka Shah Hussain also do not have state patronage.

The inability of the IPC Ministry to run sports has also dented the Olympic 2020 chances of the country’s top wrestlers. Since the government of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) emerged in the summer of 2018 Pakistan’s sports graph has gone down. Because of a lack of finances, Pakistan also skipped the Asian qualifiers for volleyball despite having qualified for the event. So far five players in different disciplines have made it to the Tokyo Olympic to be held this summer in Japan.

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