KARACHI - A former international athlete who graced the track when Pakistan athletics was at its peak in fifties and sixties has said the only hope to revive athletics in the country was to focus on grass-root level like clubs and educational institutions.

Addressing school teachers who were invited to attend athletics coaching course here at Coaching Centre, the former international athlete Talib said there was no other way to produce budding athletes but to concentrate on school and college athletics which were considered as nursery of future sportsmen. Karachi Athletics Association is holding the week-long course in which 70 teachers had so far registered .

Athletics in Pakistan, he said had suffered when people lost interest in school and college and forgot to promote clubs around the country from where the athletes had come in the past. Fifties to seventies era in Pakistan was called golden era of athletics when Pakistan won 42 gold medals at the Asian and Commonwealth Games but slowly the decline set in and currently there was no athlete of repute who could win a medal of any kind.

Athletics like Raziq, Khaliq, Iqbal and many others brought innumerable laurels to Pakistan when they won medals but when they left the scene there was no one to carry the Pakistani flag.

Talib who for the last 33 years is running a fitness camp here at the Hockey Club of Pakistan has been able to produce some promising athletes of national level. Naseem who won sprint gold at Dhaka SAF Games was one of those who got initial training at his school. During last three decades he had held over 100 coaching camps and about 3000 school boys and girls attended those camps.

He believed that dedicated and committed individuals should follow his example and open small coaching school across the country.

A time would come when a budding boys or a girl with tremendous promise would come emerge and become good athletes. It took years to groom an athlete. Usain Bolt of Jamaica who is now ruling the sprint waves in the world had come from the junior level to become one of the greatest athletes.

He urged the educational boards of Pakistan to bring discipline in organising Inter board and Inter varsity athletics competitions. He said clubs also play an important role in the development and recalled how Olympic and Asian Club which once existed in Karachi produced good athletes.

He advised the teachers to be hopeful and work hard for the promotion of athletics as he knew that they hardly had any funds to organise Inter school events but said they had to find way to organise the events.