ISLAMABAD - Athletics Federation of Pakistan (AFP) president Major General (R) M Akram Sahi Wednesday lauded Pakistani triple jump gold medal winner M Afzal of Army and announced that Afzal had become the lone athlete in the history of Pakistan athletics , who had earned a direct berth in World Junior Athletics Championship courtesy of winning gold medal at First Asian Youth Athletics Championship in Doha.
Gen Akram also announced cash incentives of Rs 100,000 for Afzal , Rs 10,000 each for Shahbaz and Wajid and Rs 20,000 for coach Maqsood, who trained athletes and played key role in helping Afzal win gold for country. Gen Sahi was addressing a hurriedly called meet the Rawalpindi/Islamabad Sports Journalists Association (RISJA) press conference at Pakistan Sports Complex Media Centre. He said: “It was indeed a great honour for AFP and off course for the country and clearly indicates that AFP is working tirelessly to help athletes win medals at international level.”
Gen Sahi was also full of praise for Army Chief General Raheel Sharif and Army Sports Directorate DG Brig Ghulam Jilani for releasing three best junior players, who all performed exceptionally well in the event. Although Shahbaz and Wajid failed to win medals but they improved their timings a great deal.
Gen Sahi highly lauded RISJA efforts in promoting sports and term it would be almost impossible to even think about such huge response had RISJA was not actively corresponding with AFP in Doha. When asked about his proposed meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Gen Sahi said it is media’s responsibility to play positive role. “I hope PM would invite the son of the soil, who rewrite history and become the first-ever athlete to win gold at Asian junior level. No one in the history of Pakistan had managed to achieve that feat. I would first like to meet Army Chief General Raheel Sharif and request him to finance federation for World Junior Athletics Championship and issues of other sports related things would also be discussed.”
Gen Sahi said it was very emotional scenes witnessed in Doha. “45 top Asian countries are the members of Asian Athletics Federation out of which 40 countries had sent their athletes for the championship, Syria and Afghanistan were the notable absentees while Yeman and Nepal, although going through difficult period also participated. The thing I like most from our athletes they participated fearlessly and with just one objective that was to raise green and white flag high by winning the gold. I had achieved one of my dreams and now my next dream is to take green and white flag at world level and help country to win international mega medal. It is although a difficult but not impossible task; if provided with sufficient amount of funds, it is my promise we can produce top level performances at any given stage.”
He said he was deeply disappointed with IPC Ministry and Pakistan Sports Board, they didn't provide a single penny fund nor they bother to say a single word of appreciation for the son of soil. “I am a sportsman and always promoted sports. If someone doesn't like my face, it’s fine but at least one should encourage youth. I hope IPC Minister would issue directives to DG PSB for immediate release of special grant as Pakistani athletes would be leaving for China for Asian Athletics Championship and we have great chance of winning medals in the event. If timely grant was not released even then I would collect donations but would not let country down and would send the team for the event in any case.”
He said he had detailed fruitful meetings with Asian Athletics Federation president and they had promised to provide assistance and help AFP in bearing expenditures for Afzal’s training abroad. He said IAAF would also sponsor another medal hope hammer thrower Shakeel. When asked about establishing athletics academy in Pakistan, Gen Sahi replied they didn’t even have funds to run day-to-day affairs of the federation but government could easily establish academy, which would indeed a great help to federation.
While sharing his views a clearly delighted Afzal dedicated his gold medal to Pakistan. “I won the medal for my beloved country.” When asked about facilities and difference between Pakistani and other athlete, Afzal replied they were getting almost same facilities here at home but there was a hell lot of difference between us and others as far as infrastructure is concerned. “I request government, IPC, PSB to ensure best available facilities for athletes, who are more than capable of competing against any given player and could win medals at international level. AFP is working very hard and president is like father to all of us. Army Sports Directorate is also paying full attention and we are getting the best facilities in the training camp at Pakistan Sports Complex. We have no issue; we are getting good care at Allama Iqbal hostel and we are quite satisfied with accommodation and meal and hope PSB would further improve facilities.”