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A glimpse at Pakistan’s 2023 in major sports

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From putting on a disastrous show in the national sport, Hockey, to achieving historic milestones in Football, Mountaineering and Snooker. Here’s a brief review of an eventful 2023 for Pakistan in major sports, barring Cricket.

2023 ushers fresh hopes for Pakistan Football

While the year 2022 was a sigh of relief for Pakistan football as the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) lifted the ban on the country and restored its international status, this year had some important firsts and historic achievements for the nation in the sport.

Pakistan men’s football team participated in two major tournaments this year – a four-nation tournament and the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship.

The national team gave it their all in both tournaments but still ended up winless.

But that was not all as the Men in Green finally gave their fans a moment to cherish when they edged Cambodia 1-0 in Leg 2 of the first round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.

This was Pakistan’s first-ever victory in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers which powered them to the second round of FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifiers, for the first time.

Pakistan then took on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Tajikistan in the Leg 1 of the second round of the World Cup Qualifiers.

The team, however, failed to bank on their positive momentum and received a 4-0 and 6-1 thrashing from KSA and Tajikistan respectively.

The defeats, however, did not rule Pakistan out of the qualification race as they have plenty to fight for, but next year.

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The national women’s football team also glimmered a ray of hope for a better future in the sport with two major victories in 2023.

Pakistan’s women’s team began their journey to success in January 2023 with a second-place finish in the Four Nation Cup held in Saudi Arabia.

They started the tournament on a positive note as they edged Comoros 1-0 – courtesy of Anmol Hira’s late winner – to claim their second consecutive victory since FIFA lifted the ban on the Pakistan Football Federation last year.

Their brief winning run was soon hindered by Mauritius, who beat them 2-1. The women’s team then settled for a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Saudi Arabia to finish second.

After a successful tournament, the Pakistan women’s football team set their sights on the Paris Olympics Qualifier.

But they did not fare well in the Qualifiers and bowed out of the qualification race as they lost 2-0 to Hong Kong and 4-0 to the Philippines in the first two group games before claiming a historic victory over Tajikistan.

The 1-0 victory over Tajikistan marked Pakistan women’s first major victory since their international return. Previously, they had only tasted triumphs in friendly matches or exhibition tournaments like the four-nation cup in Saudi Arabia.

Dark clouds continue to loom over national sports

Pakistan continued sinking to new lows in their national sport Hockey as the year 2023 marked another disappointing year for the national team.

The national men’s team participated in one major tournament this year – the Asian Champions Trophy – as they failed to qualify for yet another World Cup.

Pakistan started their Asian Champions Trophy campaign with a 3-1 defeat against Malaysia before holding Korea 1-1 and Japan 3-3 for draws.

The team then finally tasted their first victory when they edged China 2-1 but a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of arch-rivals India sent them crashing out of the tournament.

Pakistan then blew China 6-1 in the ranking match and finished fifth in the six-team tournament.

The team had a below-par performance in 2023 as they won, lost and drew two games each out of the six matches.

On the other hand, Pakistan’s Junior Hockey team featured in two major events – the Asia Cup and World Cup.

The junior side progressed well in the Asia Cup and soared to the final where their arch-rivals India edged them by the scoreline of 2-1 to clinch their fourth title.

The junior team’s performance dipped in the World Cup as they finished eighth in the 16-team mega event.

Pakistan started their campaign with a hard-fought draw against the Netherlands before thrashing New Zealand 4-0 to register their maiden victory in the global event.

The Men in Green then held Belgium for a 1-1 draw and qualified for the quarter-finals.

They met Spain in the quarter-final and suffered a 4-2 defeat which sent them out crashing. The national junior team then played several ranking matches and finished eighth in the global event.

Mountaineers keep amassing new heights for Pakistan

It was undoubtedly a remarkable year for Pakistan in Mountaineering with renowned climber Naila Kiani leading the way with historic achievements and many firsts.

With her astounding grit and determination, Kiani stunned the world and became the first Pakistani woman mountaineer to summit 10 peaks above 8,000 metres.

She also became the only Pakistani to ascend seven peaks above 8,000m in six months.

In a ground-breaking year, Kiani summit Nepal’s Annapurna Peak — the 10th-highest peak standing at 8,091m tall — and Lhotse — the fourth-highest at 8,516m.

In July, Kiani, alongside Samina Baig, became the first Pakistani women to scale the ninth-highest peak in the world Nanga Parbat.

In the same month, she became the first Pakistani woman to scale the world’s 12th-highest mountain Broad Peak, at 8,051m.

Lastly, Kiani and Sirbaz Khan made history by becoming the first Pakistani duo to successfully summit Cho Oyu, the world’s sixth-highest peak towering at 8,201m in Tibet, China.

Besides her, Sajid Ali Sadpara also recorded a historic achievement when he ascended the world’s tallest peak, 8,849m-tall Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen.

Moreover, emerging mountaineer Shehroze Kashif became the youngest in the world to scale 12 peaks above 8000m as he summited Nepal’s Manaslu, the world’s eighth-highest mountain at 8,163m.

Cueists chalk Pakistan’s emergence in the Snooker World

The year 2023 brought immense delight for Pakistan in snooker as top national cueists, including Ahsan Ramzan, Muhammad Asif and Asjad Iqbal, recorded unforgettable victories for the country.

Pakistan’s teenage Snooker sensation Ramzan, who won the International Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF) World Snooker Championship last year, continued to prove his mettle on the global stage as he added another coveted title to his cabinet.

Ramzan partook in the U21 Asian Snooker Championship, held in Iran, continued his rich vein of form in the continental event and remained unbeaten.

He outclassed Iranian opponent Milad Pourali Darehchi with a score of 5-2 (48-46, 70-5(41), 61-6(52), 62-29, 30-71, 55-67, 101-27) to get his hands on the silverware.

Besides Ramzan, Pakistan’s professional players Asjad and Asif also claimed notable achievements in 2023.

Muhammad Asif made Pakistan proud on Independence Day when he stunned seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry in the qualifying round of the ongoing British Open 2023.

Earlier in January, Asjad Iqbal enjoyed a dream campaign at the Snooker Shootout when he downed former English Open runner-up David Gilbert and former European Masters winner Jimmy Robertson on the same day, indicating a bright future for the nation in the sport.

READ: 2023 – a year of ups and downs for Pakistan Cricket

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