The whole nation saw the picture of an elderly white-bearded man riding his daughter Nashra Sandhu on his motorbike back from Allama Iqbal International Airport when she returned along with the rest of Pakistan’s women cricket team after playing and losing all seven matches in the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup. We all saw only the picture because none of us was there to see it from our own remorseful eyes. None of us bothered to welcome the team. Let’s ask a few honest questions to ourselves. How many of us actually watched even a single match of the tournament? How many of us know the names of these players who not only struggle in the field but also fight all the stigmas and pigeonhole tags that are associated with them? How many of us know who is Abdul Haseem Khan? Or Kaleemullah Khan? Or Aamir Atlas Khan? Indeed, only a few might have heard of them before. These are the names of Pakistan men’s national field hockey team captain, Pakistan national football team captain, and a Pakistani professional squash player respectively. Why has Pakistan restricted the domain of its sports to cricket and that too only of men? Why was losing to India by 7-1 in the Hockey World League 2017 not as big a shame for Pakistan as being humbled by the same rival at a cricket stadium in Mohali by 29 runs in the second semi-final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011? Bringing into discussion the bitter facts, Pakistan Cricket Board spends approximately $43 million on international and national cricket every year of which about $16 million is pooled in by the International Cricket Council (ICC). On the other hand, allocation of Rs 60 million by the federal government in 2016-17 annual budget for laying a synthetic hockey turf at Swat Hockey Stadium was venerated as a massive achievement that would develop the physical infrastructure of the sport in the country. Mentioning the annual budget of Pakistan Football Federation, which is hovering around the figure of Rs 40 million, would definitely prove as icing on the cake. And our beloved majority synonymises squash with the names of Jahangir Khan and Jansher Khan and that is where their knowledge of the sport begins and ends. Why was losing to India by 7-1 in the Hockey World League 2017 not as big a shame for Pakistan as being humbled by the same rival at a cricket stadium in Mohail by 29 runs in the second semi-final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011? Brazilian football legend Ronaldinho’s visit to Pakistan as a ‘goodwill mission to promote the game in the cricket-mad country’ is a clear vindication of the dire need to shift our focus towards other sports. Despite having a strong base in Karachi and south-western Balochistan, Pakistan’s national football team has deplorably struggled for several years and now ranks 198th in the FIFA rankings. The most lamentable part of reporting the whole event surfaced when Pakistani media told everything about the eight international footballers who had arrived to boost the morale of our national players but forgot to tell anything about the latter. They not only included the captain of our football team Kaleemullah Khan but also the shining star of street child football team Mohammad Razzik. Yes, being pessimistic is never advisable but behaving like a Pollyanna is equally imprudent. Had Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa not been their host, the excitement that existed for the matches would have never been created in the first place. Coming back to the first facet of the problem, where are female hockey, football and squash players of Pakistan? Do they even exist? With a renowned anchorperson criticising the type of swing other than the swinging motion of female cricketer’s arm shown in a TV ad and declaring it ‘vulgar’, what do we, as a nation, throw at these ladies who want to become our pride and represent the country? How many stereotypes do they have to smash before they can be respected? Can our eyes never look beyond their gender? The story of sportsperson Naseem Hameed is not unknown to anyone. The journey of becoming the fastest woman in South Asia would not have been easy for her. A woman in this society is compelled to run fast and keep running until she escapes tantrums from her parents, lashes of her husband, vilification from her children, and gossips from the community she lives in. While the founder of the International Olympic Committee, Pierre de Coubertin, insists that all sports must be treated on the basis of equality, I wish to extend the quotation: All sports and sports-persons must be treated on the basis of equality. To quote American basketball player Lisa Leslie, “I’m strong, I’m tough, and I still wear my eyeliner.” The writer is a freelance columnist from Lahore Published in Daily Times, August 3nd 2017.