Wicket, Sticks And Spirits: Sports And Identity Of Pakistan – OpEd


Amidst the rich tapestry of diverse ethnic groups, the population of Pakistan is united by one thing, sports: a crucial component of cultural fabric of Pakistan, that glues together the linguistic, ethnic, and socio-economic diverse groups. Transcending these boundaries, the relationship between sports and national identity reflects the unifying feeling to support the team for the sake of country.

The sports sector of Pakistan, despite facing multiple challenges have multiple successes to its account that serve as a source of national pride and unity such as the victory of Pakistan’s Cricket Team at 1992 World Cup, emergence of world-famous athletes like Jahangir Khan, the squash player, hockey legend Sohail Abbas, and the famous boxer, Muhammad Waseem. 

The national sport of Pakistan is Hockey but cricket has somewhat become the de-facto national sport due to immense support from the cricket lovers. The love and support for cricket goes beyond a mere sport and is deeply integrated in our daily lives being a hot topic for drawing rooms talks of any age group. Major cricket tournaments particularly the Cricket World Cup rival the FIFA World Cup due to their widespread support and popularity among Pakistanis. Therefore, cricket bears a significant imprint in Pakistan. Borrowed from the British Rule, it remained as a means to shape a new Pakistani identity after independence as a fledgling nation making its mark on the world. Cricket players turned into legends and the victories they won for the country were a pride of the nation. 

Though cricket has its way into the hearts of majority, hockey remains a special part of Pakistan’s sporting lore. While they were once the undeniable giants of field hockey, Pakistan has solid grounds to boast of three Olympic gold medals and World Cup triumphs. Pakistan has then been in the mid of its golden period of hockey, when its team had earned international repute and pride for the country. These triumphs not only served as the milestones that placed Pakistan in front of the map but also inculcated the feeling of togetherness or a common heritage among the people of this Sub-Continent. Attempts to resurge hockey are not just in the sense of regaining previous triumphs but also in the sense that hockey has been symbolic of unity and brilliance for Pakistan. 

An increasing number of football leagues within Pakistan, as well as growth in local talent claiming titles on the international platform, exemplify the country’s prospects. It is for Pakistan to untap the true potential of sports particularly in bringing the best out of people by supporting social harmony. It is important to applaud all sorts of sports not only cricket. Pakistan produces champions in field of hockey, boxing, squash and kabbadi. Such sports provide novel opportunities for people to come together and support their teams, as these are based along regional lines, but share the same colors, hence people feel a stronger sense of unity and national identity. 

Within the social context, sports promote brotherhood and fervent support for the team despite their backgrounds. It has been a testament of power fostering a shared sense of national identity, where crowd cheers and chants for the green shirts. In high pressure games, streets are deserted, families sit glued to their television sets, and the sound of the crowd rises, when boundaries hit, goals are shot. Often turned into fights, anger, rage on field but later on sitting together with the same opponents and having meals afterwards, reflects the true spirit of sports. 

Sports bring honour, pride, unity and recognition to the nation bring trophies, medals and championships to the land of Pakistan. Inclusion of sports, encourage character development by inculcating discipline, teamwork and sense of belonging from the nation by empowering the team.

Besides, sports diplomacy can be characterized as one of the most effective mechanisms to enhance the perception of Pakistan internationally and build positive attitudes. Cricket diplomacy has been a part of the relations with India reflecting the true beauty of a sport as it has number of times acted as a mediator helping to decrease the tension. In a country as multifaceted as Pakistan, sports can fill a void by building a common ground and developing a sense of togetherness. This is because education involves a broad number of activities aimed at the development of children and youth, as well as training human resources for building a viable and sustainable society; it is on this basis that investing in sportsmen and the promotion of sports in Pakistan can become significant impetus toward the country’s unity and the creation of national identity. Pakistan should therefore look forward to embracing the spirit of sports to foster development of unity and a stronger nation out of challenges encountered during the team’s preparation toward successful performance. 

Alina Fayaz

Alina Fayaz is a student of International Relations in Beaconhouse International College Islamabad, pursuing her degree alongside working as a writer and researcher at certain platforms.

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