Millions of Pakistanis were left in awe as Arshad Nadeem etched his name in the history books with a monstrous 90.18m attempt in the javelin throw competition at the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Arshad became the first Pakistani athlete since Ghulam Raziq in 1962 to win a gold medal in the athletics event in the Commonwealth Games. Raziq had won gold in 120-yard hurdles in the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth.
Arshad became the second Asian and the only South Asian to cross the 90m mark in javelin throw history and his remarkable achievement was special because he competed in the mega-event with shoulder and elbow injuries.
The 25-year-old’s tremendous achievement should not only be considered Pakistan’s greatest athletics achievement but also the greatest sporting achievement in the country’s history, even greater than the 1992 Cricket World Cup victory in Melbourne.
Many of us would have given up if we would have been in Arshad’s shoes. Being ignored repeatedly by the relevant authorities, being heavily under-funded, lack of basic facilities and training equipment, and the extreme lack of professionalism within the federations would have led to many athletes giving up on their dreams and pursuing other career paths to support their families.
Despite enormous challenges, Arshad did not lose heart, instead, he took it upon himself to win gold for his country and inspire millions of Pakistani people.
The question arises why did Arshad have to do this on his own and why did the Pakistan Sports Board or any other relevant authority not provide him with the required facilities throughout his career? Back in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Arshad finished fifth and it was apparent that he possesses the talent to challenge for medals in global events if provided with the right tools to succeed. But, as we have witnessed throughout our history, nothing substantial was done for Arshad to turn him into a world-beater.
Sure, the PSB arranged for Arshad to go to South Africa for training for a couple of months but an athlete of Arshad’s caliber deserves constant training under the best coaches and facilities. A few months of training under a professional coach has made a world of difference. Imagine what he would have achieved if he had been training like this throughout his career.
To add salt to the wounds, PSB refused to bear the expenses of Arshad’s coach to travel with him to Birmingham. Similarly, Pakistan’s sprinter, Shajar Abbas, the fastest man in Pakistan’s history, was also without a coach for the mega-event. The athletes were also without any recognized physio, while the Pakistani contingent included one Chief-de-Mission and two deputy Chief-de-Mission as well as PPP’s Federal Minister for Inter Provincial Coordination, Ehsan-Ur-Rehman Mazari.
Arshad is one of eight Pakistani athletes including weightlifter Nooh Dastagir Butt, judoka Shah Hussain Shah, and wrestlers Inam Butt, Zaman Anwar, Mohammad Sharif Tahir, Inayatullah, and Ali Asad to win a medal at the 2022 CWG, all without any major help from their relevant federations or the PSB.
Their extraordinary achievements should not only be lauded but taken as inspiration to bring a sporting revolution to the country.
The fantastic achievement of the eight athletes and also Shajar Abbas, who defied the overwhelming odds, has the potential to kickstart a revolution in the country and finally get the attention that they deserve.
Arshad’s sensational outing in Birmingham has already prompted a response from current Prime Minister, Shehbaz Sharif, and former Prime Minster, Imran Khan, who have hailed his achievement on Twitter. This is unprecedented as this privilege is usually reserved for the Pakistan Cricket Team.
Maybe, things will be a bit different this time around as the mainstream media has started to pay attention to the atrocities of the PSB and their treatment of their stars.
Here’s to hoping against hope that finally the athletes will be considered as the assets that they are instead of properties of the PSB that they are considered now. Here’s to hoping against hope that the sports policy in the country will be altered and Pakistan’s sports will finally get rid of the petty politics and the stronghold of the politicians, government officials, retired army officials, and the bureaucracy, all of whom have played their part in ruining the sporting culture in the country. Here’s to hoping against hope that everything will finally be alright with Pakistan sports
Finally, thank you Arshad Nadeem and all the other remarkable athletes for inspiring millions of Pakistanis and giving them a ray of hope in the darkness which is Pakistan’s sports.