The blue riband track and field events, considered the jewel in the crown of the Olympic, Commonwealth and continental games, exploded into action at the main stadium on Saturday but a tussle back home meant Pakistan did not send its athletics team to Incheon.
That tussle is between the two factions of the Athletics Federation of Pakistan (AFP).
The AFP, headed by Akram Sahi — a former athlete himself — isn’t recognised by the Syed Arif Hasan-led Pakistan Olympic Association (POA), the International Olympic Committee (IOC) or the International Associations of Athletic Federations (IAAF).
And despite the Pakistan contingent at the Games featuring in over 20 disciplines, that controversy has meant Pakistan are without a representative in the track and field event.
Although Pakistan’s performances at the continent’s Olympic-size event in recent years haven’t been great, Ghulam Abbas won the 400m hurdles gold at the 1990 Asiad in Beijing while in the early 1950s and 60s, legendary sprinters Abdul Khaliq and Ghulam Raziq dominated the continental Games.
Hockey team rout Oman to book semi-final against Malaysia
None of that, however, seemed to bother the hockey team or boxer Mohammad Waseem on Saturday.
Full-backs Mohammad Imran, Mohammad Irfan and forward Abdul Haseem Khan scored twice each as Pakistan thrashed Oman 8-0 at the Seonhak Stadium to finish top of pool ‘B’ and set up a semi-final against Malaysia.
At the Seonhak Gymnasium, meanwhile, Waseem advanced to the quarter-final in the men’s flyweight 52kg category when he beat North Korea’s Ri Chungil 2-1.
It was a mixed day for the country’s table tennis teams, though, as they suffered a win and a defeat in the men’s and women’s team event.
The kabbadi team begins its Group ‘A’ campaign on Sunday when they play Thailand, hoping to improve on their bronze medal at the Asian Games in Guangzhou four years ago.
Pakistan’s hockey coach Shahnaz Shaikh was beaming after seeing his side rout a hapless Oman to finish their pool matches with a perfect record of four wins from four.
“Our pace in all the games was good from start to finish,” Shahnaz said. “We’re scoring from the start and keeping our momentum till the end.
“It’s a good sign that the team is working well as we’ve scored 14 field goals and had 12 penalty corner conversions.”
Tuesday’s semi-final will be a repeat of the title clash in Guangzhou four years ago. Malaysia finished second in pool ‘A’ behind South Korea.
The Koreans face India in the other last-four clash.
After a sluggish start Pakistan found their rhythm when Imran fired them into the lead on 14 minutes, firing home their first penalty corner.
Teenage sensation Mohammad Dilber scored a stunning field goal in the 17th, the first of three goals in the space of seven minutes with Irfan scoring off a penalty corner and Haseem scoring his first when he deflected in Shakeel Abbasi’s cross.
Umar Bhutta made it 5-0 on another Shakeel assist before Imran converted another penalty corner for his sixth goal of the Games to make it 6-0 in the 43rd.
Haseem finished with a brace by firing in the seventh before Irfan, who was sent off after a yellow card in the 53rd, returned to the field and converted Pakistan’s fifth penalty corner with aplomb 23 seconds from full-time.
“My team played very badly,” Oman’s German coach Oliver Kurtz said. “They lacked discipline and organisation which disappointed me.”
Waseem advanced to a last-eight bout against Qasim Raad Al Sudani of Kyrgyzstan after overcoming Ri and hoped to secure a medal by advancing to the semis.
“I’m extremely grateful to Allah for making it into the quarters and I hope that I’ll be able to make it to the medal-winning semi-final stage,” Waseem told reporters after his emotional win.
When the bout was stopped seconds into the second round by Tunisian referee Mohammed Braham, Waseem thought he had lost the fight on a technical knockout after Ri had landed a right-left combination on him which resulted a cut on his right eyebrow.
Waseem, however, insisted on fighting and was thrilled when he was announced the winner, saying the North Korean was disqualified after a head-butt on him.
Over at the Suwon Gymnasium, Pakistan’s men’s and women’s table tennis teams started off brightly by winning their opening matches before both sides lost their second games.
Mohammad Rameez starred in Pakistan’s thrilling 3-2 victory over Macau, beating beat Pan Chi Che 3-2 with the tie level at 2-2, but that was followed by a 0-3 hammering by Japan in their second Group ‘C’ match.
Pakistan’s women’s team, meanwhile, began their Group ‘C’ campaign with a 3-0 victory over Mongolia but suffered a similar reverse against South Korea in their second match.
At the Duwon Gymnasium, Pakistan’s Mohammad Bilal lost 4-0 to Ramil Rejepov in the men’s freestyle 57kg wrestling quarter-final.