ISLAMABAD - The three-day 46th National Athletics Championship male and female will stroll into action from today (Friday) here at Jinnah Stadium, Pakistan Sports Complex. All the six departments and affiliated units of the AFP will be participating in the event.

Addressing a press conference, Athletics Federation of Pakistan (AFP) president Major General (R) M Akram Sahi said: “A total of 22 male and 20 female events will be conducted by top technical officials of the country and we will give cash prize of Rs 5000 to winner, Rs 3000 to runner-up and Rs 2000 to third position holder in both male and females categories while the boarding lodging will be provided by Pakistan Sports Board (PSB). Despite facing financial restrains, we will distribute Rs 500,000 as cash awards among the top players and teams.

When this scribe asked the AFP chief why the championship was shifted from Lahore to Islamabad, he replied: “Punjab is very unlucky, as they have missed the biggest event due to the reasons best known to them. It would have land mark impact, but they refused to allow usage of venue and wanted us to change the dates which is not possible for us, as high profile events are just round the corner. We also have to keep a close eye on adjusting school, college and university going students. We have also picked three players to represent Pakistan in Asian Junior Athletics Championship in Doha, Qatar and World Youth championship.”

He said: “Soon after taking over the AFP as president, I made a lot of changes and relaxation in constitution and awarded not only affiliation to Fata, Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK, but also gave them full voting rights. I had great love for each and every corner of the country and I don't want the backward areas or underprivileged from their basic right of competing against the best. I know it will be almost impossible for the heavyweights like Army and Wapda to shoulder Rs 3.5 million required for conducting championship so how would it be possible for these small units to arrange such hefty amount. I had planned to conduct championship every month, but I admit I didn't succeed in materializing that but I did manage to conduct 5 to 6 top level championships every year. My main focus is on youth, and we are looking towards HEC to provide grassroots level talent to us so that we may groom them and make them best in the business.”

When asked about former greats like Akhlaq and Raziq were not given due recognition by the federation, Sahi refuted that claim and said: “We invited Khaliq’s son on each and every event and gave him due respect. We are also planning to organise a benefit championship and the collected amount will be awarded to the families of past greats. We are working on a number of projects. Despite very limited resources, our athletes managed to win laurels at international stage. I am highly disappointed Sajjad and Samira managed to win silver and bronze at Fajr International Indoor Championship held in Iran.

“Nobody from the PSB or the IPC bothered to say a few words of appreciation for these medal winners, so announcing of incentives is a far cry. But we will reward them during the current event, but we expect the PSB to lend a helping hand, or else youth will turn their backs on playing athletics instead they will turn their focus towards playing cricket or other sports, where they can get due recognition,” he added.

“Nobody knows how I have managed such hefty amount of funds to conduct the championships and send players abroad for events. The annual PSB grant is not even enough for paying utility bills, monthly salaries of the staff, so sending players for international events or conducting championships are almost impossible, but I am very passionate person and will not sit back until I achieve my objectives,” he asserted.

“Army is the defending champion in male and Wapda in female category. I hope this time, some other departments or province may challenge their authority and new champion may emerge. Wapda chairman will grace the opening ceremony as chief guest at 4pm. We are finalizing the name of the chief guest for closing ceremony,” Sahi concluded.