PM Sharif can name a dam after Nooh Butt. As for Pakistanis, they want better sports infrastructure

New Delhi: At the Commonwealth Games, Birmingham, 24-year-old Nooh Dastagir Butt did not just push against a 405kg weight to bring Pakistan its first gold in the current edition, but also the who’s and who of Pakistan to sit up, take note, congratulate — and accept that the country must do more to give talents like Butt the chance they deserve. Icons of Pakistani cricket Shoaib Akhtar, Babar Azamand Shahid Afridi have used Butt’s example to demonstrate what athletes in Pakistan are capable of achieving with the right kind of backing.

A similar sentiment was echoed by sports journalists and fans, with some going as far as to say that politics in Pakistan is ruining sports in the country.

Butt himself talked about the lack of infrastructure and support in Pakistan soon after his win. “Back in Pakistan, there is no training facility, nor any hall of international standard where competitions can be held. Equipment too isn’t up to the mark,” he told Dawn. “I got here because of my father’s passion for the sport. It was he who made sure we were able to train with the best equipment. But we need more support going forward.”

Butt isn’t the only athlete in Pakistan’s Commonwealth contingent who has this to say. The Pakistani badminton team received tremendous backlash online after losing to a dominant India during the Mixed Team competition. Speaking to India Today, Mahoor Shahzad, the Pakistani shuttler who lost to PV Sindhu, talked about the support and backing the Indian government had provided to its athletes and wished they’d received something similar. Pakistan’s Badminton Team was initially dropped by the Pakistan Sports Board for the CWG2022 but was able to make it through with last-minute sponsorship.

In July 2021, the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) attributed the decline of sports within the country to the PSB. They accused the PSB of surrendering Rs 440 million in an Olympic year, which should have and could have been used for athletes who had qualified for the Games.

In December 2021, former PM Imran Khan stated: “Pakistan Sports Board should act as a regulator and focus on providing facilities to the youth”.

The weightlifter’s success has forced Pakistan to take note. The Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) has announced a cash prize for Butt, as has Pakistan’s Cricket Team captain, Babar Azam. Prime Minister, Shehbaz Sharif, even joked about wanting to name a dam after the Gujranwala weightlifter.

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