Posts Tagged ‘Sports’

Reuters: Sun Salutation?!

It’s Pakistan Day today, and the Pakistan cricket team just defeated West Indies by 10 wickets to reach the World Cup semi-finals.

Kind of poetic, no?

The match took place amid tremendous Bangladeshi support in Mirpur, a fact that was surprising for some given the history between the two countries. But my friend Tafsir, who was leaving the stadium post-match, told me, “Before  the Bangladesh cricket team became big, everyone here supported Pakistan, especially when Imran Khan, Inzamam ul-Haq, Waqar Younis, and Wasim Akram were playing. So it’s logical that the Bangladeshis are supporting Pakistan now.”

Pakistan has so far played all of their games in Sri Lanka, receiving an equally warm response among fans in that country despite the horrific attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009. Shahid Afridi, the Pakistan team captain more fondly known as Boom Boom Afridi and less fondly known as Very-Obvious-Ball-Biter, told media outlets,

It was beginning to feel like we were playing at home [in Sri Lanka]. But I’m sure that Bangladesh will be a similar story. The crowd there supports the Pakistan team and they will be backing us now that their own team is not playing in the quarterfinals. The conditions in Mirpur, will be home-like, I’m sure.

And it was. Another friend, Shaheryar Mirza (@mirza9), an Express 24/7 reporter in Karachi, told me, “The Bangladeshis and the Sri Lankans have shown that they love cricket. It is about human beings more than it is about war and politics…It’s a sign that people can show immense grace and rise above history and conflict.”

If my Twitter feed is any indication, many Pakistan fans, while celebrating the win, took a moment to thank Bangladesh for their support today. Rabayl_M tweeted, “I love Pakistan and I can still be deeply apologetic about what happened in 1971 because of us. I’m sorry Bangladesh.” Another Twitter friend, Bolshevik, echoed, “Hats off to the people of #Bangladesh. Phenomenal support despite #Pakistan’s #1971 chutyapey and lack of apology. Amaar shonar Bangla! :-)”

Sure, it’s just a sports tournament. But if the World Cup has taught us anything, it’s how sports can really give us some perspective, and truly transcend boundaries.

Here’s to a great performance in the semi-finals, Pakistan. Many thanks to Bangladesh for their amazing support (what up to my mother country!). And Happy Pakistan Day, [here is my think-positive-thoughts post from Pakistan Day last year].

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The Pakistani Golden Girls


AFP/Express Image: Thank You for Being a Friend...(lalala)

This past weekend, the Pakistan women’s cricket team brought home the first gold medal from the Asian Games in eight years, a development that supporters say “points to the need for more education and opportunities in sports for women in Muslim countries.” Pakistan’s all-rounder Nida Rashid told reporters, “Our media doesn’t give women’s sports that much coverage, as much as they give to men’s sports…There are so many sports in which women participate in Pakistan, like squash, table tennis and volleyball, but they go unnoticed.”

Fair point. How many people could name players on the women’s cricket team before this past week’s win? Anyone? Bueller?

Shirin Javed, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Women’s Wing Chairperson told the Express Tribune,

There is no dearth of interested individuals in the country. We have girls coming from Quetta, from Gilgit, from remote villages that we didn’t even know existed and with names we can’t even pronounce. They are barred from leaving their houses apart from going for training and matches.

But, noted Javed, this is changing. She emphasized, “Times have changed. No longer are the parents worried. We have girls playing in track suits. We have parents dropping their daughter for training on a bicycle. A kitchen is not the only place girls belong to now.”

Back in February, I wrote about the tremendous achievements of Maria Toor, Pakistan’s number one ranked female squash player, (72nd in the world). Not bad for someone who, as a young girl in South Waziristan, would chop her hair in order to disguise herself and play sports with the boys. While Toor’s determination to play sports in the face of opposition is truly inspirational, we should also applaud her father, who recognized his daughter’s talent and moved the family to Peshawar so she could train more freely.

Much like Toor’s father, Shams-ul-Qayum Wazir, cricket player Ismavia Iqbal‘s father also made similar remarks to Express 24/7, appealing to other parents to encourage their daughters to play sports, saying his daughter “improved the Pakistan name” in her achievement with the Pakistan women’s cricket team.

In Pakistan, we have a long way to go when it comes to women’s rights, but the recent press coverage of the women’s cricket team is an opportunity to discuss the benefits of allowing young girls to play sports. From a development perspective, there are numerous reasons why supporting sports for both girls and boys is important – not only for their health and self-esteem value, but also for the team building and leadership skills they provide. This story also further emphasizes how we can’t just empower young girls and women in a vacuum, but also target the men within this patriarchal society. Men like Toor and Iqbal’s fathers should be championed as examples, particularly since women sports players in Pakistan are still met with resistance by critics who regularly label them “budget-wasters, hopeless performers, sinners even,” using “the marriage factor as their primary aid,” noted the Express.

The Times of India quoted Pakistan cricket captain Sana Mir who said,

I think if women in Pakistan are given opportunities to play sports with proper coaches and facilities, there’s no reason why they should not perform – not only at Asian Games – but also in major international tournaments. I believe if you do something with honesty you can gain a lot in the field of sports.
Playing with honesty – hope you caught that, Pakistan men’s cricket team.
P.S.: Another proud sports-related moment – tennis star Aisam Qureshi, along with his Indian tennis parter Rohan Bopanna, were honored with the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year Award. This is the second time Qureshi has won the award. Well done to the Indo-Pak Express!

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The Indo-Pak (Tennis) Express

Wheee! Friends!

Last year, I blogged about Aisam ul-Haq Qureshi, a Pakistani tennis player who played at last year’s Wimbledon with an Indian partner, Prakash Armitraj. The pair didn’t go very far into the competition, but their partnership sparked headlines and media attention, with Dawn noting, “The pair believe their tennis doubles partnership shows sport can transcend the boundaries between people — and say the warm response to their joining forces shows how the situation has shifted in recent years.”

This year, at the U.S. Open, Qureshi has partnered with another Indian player – Rohan Bopanna – and the pair has been subsequently dubbed the “Indo-Pak Express.” The Star Ledger (via Sepia Mutiny) noted in its coverage,

Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi looked around the perimeter of the court Tuesday and saw what he’d hoped for. They were sitting together. Pakistanis and Indians, blurred along the bleachers, one just like the other. They were clapping for the same thing. Cheering in unison…“There was a lot of Pakistanis and Indians in the crowd cheering for us,” Qureshi said. “And you couldn’t tell the difference, who was Pakistani and who was Indian, they were all mixed together and supporting the same team.”

Bopanna and Qureshi also teamed up for this year’s Wimbledon warm-ups, declaring, “Stop War Start Tennis.” Qureshi told Sports Illustrated, “Obviously we have to look at the bigger picture. Nelson Mandela, Arthur Ashe, all those big legends: Definitely you can change people’s minds through sports. Football does that; there’s no reason tennis can’t do it. Our combination is very rare and we’re getting all this publicity and hype. And I feel like we can use it to change peoples’ minds. Minds are changing anyway. Every time Indians and Pakistanis come and support us, minds are changing.”

Qureshi is no stranger to tennis diplomacy. During the 2002 U.S. Open, he partnered with Amir Hadad, an Israeli tennis player. Although the partnership was denounced by the Pakistani tennis federation, who banned him from the Davis Cup, the pair were awarded the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year award for continuing to play together despite pressures from both communities. This year, the Indo-Pak Express has played extremely well and will play in the men’s doubles quarterfinals today. Qureshi has also advanced to the mixed doubles quarterfinal with partner Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic, (update: he just reached the finals Tuesday, noted Dawn, the first Pakistani to qualify for the final of any Grand Slam competition!).

Pakistan’s cricket team – what with their spot-fixing, match-fixing, [insert-here]-fixing – have disappointed us time and time again. Qureshi, in comparison, is pretty damn refreshing and inspirational. And frankly, between the Qureshi-Bopanna partnership and the Sania Mirza-Shoaib Malik love story, I’d take the former any day. More tennis diplomacy, if you please.

(Shout-out to Ramez for the tip. Thanks!)

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