THE people of Pakistan will be or they ought to be delighted to know that this country has been able to put together a women`s national hockey team after a gap of more than three years. After preparatory sessions in Lahore, the team is off to Thailand to take part in the Asian Hockey Federation Cup.

A place amongst the top two in this tournament will guarantee participation in the Asia Cup, but so dormant has been women`s hockey in the country that to a vast majority here the mere appearance of this national side would be a surprise. In a land where investing in sports is a low priority, the quality of competition and talent has gone down drastically over time. Women`s sport in particular has long been pushed from the fringes to complete oblivion, with a flash-in-the-pan event here and there reminding the keener enthusiasts that Pakistani sportswomen were still around. Some of our resources are wasted on mindless spending, and it is alleged a portion is lost through corruption. Of whatever little is spent on sporting activity and on cultivating and nurturing sportspersons, the bulk is spent on `fashionable` games, with cricket hogging all attention. A game like hockey which had brought the nation laurels in the past suffers from sheer neglect that then causes disinterest in the game in general.

This is a cruel formula according to which the obscure women players get only a nominal sum to survive on. However, this virtual isolation of women`s sports does lead to some pertinent questions. If the area is so segregated from where Pakistani men play the game, would it not be feasible to separate women`s sports in organisational terms as well? The idea of having an exclusive women`s sports board sounds appealing since it will be a forum where women will be the priority. Under a competent system such a board could end up establishing an order that is able to truly encourage Pakistani women to take up sports.