POA criticised for omitting outdoor events from National Games

Karachi : A furious row has erupted after the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) decided to omit hockey, football and other outdoor sports from the forthcoming 31st
National Games scheduled to be held in Peshawar from December 25.

National Games that have already been postponed twice in the last two years because of uncertain security situation in the north-west province, now face a new trouble as the
organisers of the Games have omitted nearly a dozen disciplines and reduced the number of participating athletes, so that the event can be wrapped up in short span of time and
security hassles can be avoided.

But the omission of Pakistan`s national sport – hockey has already led to a severe backlash from the Pakistan Hockey Federation and sports community in general.

"It is a joke not to include hockey in the National Games. Already we are trying to keep the profile of the sport high in Pakistan and attempting to find new talents. But we are told that there will be no hockey in such a major event," PHF secretary, Asif Bajwa said.

Bajwa also said that if the provincial organisers were having problems organising the Games because of any reason including security then the POA should move the Games to some other province.

"If they can`t hold the hockey event for any reason we can do it for them but it is unacceptable not to have the national sport in the National Games," Bajwa said.

He said the PHF President, Qasim Zia had already taken up the issue with the government and Pakistan Sports Board.

There was a similar reaction from Saleh Faisal Hayat, an influential politician and President of the Pakistan Football Federation.

"How can they exclude a popular sport like football? Then what is the purpose of having National Games?," he asked.

Sources said that the decision to reduce the number of games and athletes in the National Games was taken because the organisers didn`t want a huge number of athletes and packed schedule in Peshawar, which has been vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

"Basically the problem is the security situation in the province," one source said.

The organisers have also drastically reduced the events in which female athletes were suppose to participate as the place is considered as the most conservative in Pakistan.

Interestingly, most of the disciplines included in the Games are indoor sports, which clearly shows that the organisers are not confident about the security arrangements.