THE people of Pakistan will be — or they ought to be — delighted to know that this country has been able to put together a women’s national hockey team after a gap of more than three years. After preparatory sessions in Lahore, the team is off to Thailand to take part in the Asian Hockey Federation Cup. A place amongst the top two in this tournament will guarantee participation in the Asia Cup, but so dormant has been women’s hockey in the country that to a vast majority here the mere appearance of this national side would be a surprise. In a land where investing in sports is a low priority, the quality of competition and talent has gone down drastically over time. Women’s sport in particular has long been pushed from the fringes to complete oblivion, with a flash-in-the-pan event here and there reminding the keener enthusiasts that Pakistani sportswomen were still around. Some of our resources are wasted on mindless spending, and it is alleged a portion is lost through corruption. Of whatever little is spent on sporting activity and on cultivating and nurturing sportspersons, the bulk is spent on ‘fashionable’ games, with cricket hogging all attention. A game like hockey which had brought the nation laurels in the past suffers from sheer neglect that then causes disinterest in the game in general.
This is a cruel formula according to which the obscure women players get only a nominal sum to survive on. However, this virtual isolation of women’s sports does lead to some pertinent questions. If the area is so segregated from where Pakistani men play the game, would it not be feasible to separate women’s sports in organisational terms as well? The idea of having an exclusive women’s sports board sounds appealing since it will be a forum where women will be the priority. Under a competent system such a board could end up establishing an order that is able to truly encourage Pakistani women to take up sports.