Sports - The Missing Link in Nation Building

Lahore - In a press conference held last week to announce Al Jalil Developers’ co-ownership of Lahore Qalandars, the real estate giant reported setting up their dedicated sports-led project called Marina Sports City-- a community with plans to include all the amenities the residents would need to integrate sports into their daily lives. 
The developers’ vision is to model a community that helps elevate living standards and leads the way towards developing better lifestyles. CEO of Al Jalil Group of Companies further explained that such an initiative will greatly strengthen the nation. Such a declaration makes one wonder, is there a real connection between sports and nation building?
While we are all aware that the universal language of sports allows people of all economic backgrounds, races, ages and genders to come together on a common platform, can we really build a case as strongly in its favour? 
Sports of any kind, by their very nature, have been known to be linked with physical and mental health benefits, character and confidence building and most importantly cohesiveness via a shared sense of belonging.
A single sporting event can jolt the sedentary lives most of us lead, and propel us as viewers, fans and for that matter even athletes and players to embody the spirit of discipline and teamwork - essential values that have long lasting impact as a nation.
Similarly, creation of sporting idols gives the youth of any nation an inspiring goal to look forward to. People like Jehangir Khan or Wasim Akram were all regular joes living their lives till they were discovered for their talent on the field. Imagine an 8 or 10-year-old looking up to these giants and thinking “someday this could be me”. 
Similarly, the same idols can be leveraged to create global goodwill, the Peles, Maradonnas and Imran Khans of the world have done much to further the image of their countries as ambassadors on an international stage. 
The Olympics is one sporting event that is a glaring example of the way sports can be a launching pad for international spotlight as well as infrastructure development of the host country, the Tokyo and Seoul Olympics having put both Japan and Korea on the global centre stage. Any country worth its mettle can use the platform to project its soft image of hospitality, harmony and leadership for the world to see.
Unfortunately, this knowledge has always been used in silos across different national and international sporting platforms. Our focus to adopt this at community level has yet to materialise. But where does one even begin this exhaustive integration? The answer lies in approaching it from a grassroots level. Where does one usually have their first interaction with competitive sports? At home, in the gallis and mohallas where one grows up, the schools and universities we further attend. So, what if our community is equipped and purpose built around sports as an integral part of the growing up experience for any child. 
Urban development experts would weigh in on how any healthy community is based on prerequisites like a school, a hospital, a park, a sports ground, a market and such. Any planned community would have to tick mark all in order to be considered a balanced living environment. 
It would therefore be prudent to realise the massive opportunity in furthering the cause of integrated sports communities within Pakistan, especially in terms of propelling us on a growth trajectory as a nation.