Pakistan's Olympic hopes dashed in Astana


Pakistan Boxer Mohammad Waseem participates at the 52kg Fly weight division at the Talkatora Indoor Stadium during day two of the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games on October 5, 2010 in Delhi, India.


Michael Steele

Why won't there be any Pakistanis in the boxing ring at the London Olympics this summer?

The technical answer is that the country's last remaining hope, Mohammad Waseem, failed to qualify when he crashed out of the AIBA Asian Qualifying Round in Astana, Kazakhstan, in a stunning 22-9 defeat against Mongolia's Nyambar Tugstsogt in the flyweight quarter finals.

According to Pakistan Boxing Federation, however, like many of Pakistan's problems, the blame can be placed squarely on the country's government. 

"We did our best, utilizing all possible resources we had but didn't get any sort of interest shown by the government," PFB's Secretary Mohammad Akram told The Express Tribune. Boxing is one of three sports for which Pakistan has won an Olympic medal since 1948, when the country first qualified to participate in the games.

"Everything was planned in haste at the last minute, which created problems. Our grant was released two days before our departure so we couldn't even go Kazakhstan nice and early for extra training," he said.

As boxers such as Haider Ali and Mohammad Waseem have emerged as serious contenders in the international boxing sphere, Pakistan's interest in the sport has increased. Last year, US heavyweight boxing legend Mike Tyson was expected to travel to Pakistan to attend the second annual Shaheed Benazir Bhutto International Boxing Tournament. The country also had high hopes for an Olympic win. Those hopes all came crashing down when Waseem lost in the quarter finals.

Akram wasn't the only one playing the blame game. PFB President Doda Khan also lamented that a lack of interest by the government impeded Pakistan's chances of an Olympic medal.

“We wanted to hire a foreign coach but the Pakistan Sports Board didn’t have funds and not even Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani helped us. I had to arrange finances on my own, even for the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto International Boxing Tournament," said PFB President Doda Khan.

How responsible is the Pakistani government? The News International disagrees with the PBF. 

Pakistan’s boxing authorities should blame themselves for the poor showing of their boxers in the qualifiers because they did not fully focus on their preparations. They had planned to send the boxers to Kazakhstan for month-long training ahead of the qualifiers but failed to do so. A poor selection for the vital assignment was also one of the reasons behind the country’s pathetic display in Astana.

Now it seems that the country will only be represented at the Olympics by its hockey team, unless Pakistan receives wild card entries in shooting, athletics and swimming.