Pakistan has a new sporting hero. Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi, who came points away from clinching the US Open Doubles Title with his Indian partner Rohan Bopanna has been embraced with particular warmth at a time when disgust with the national cricket side runs high. Qureshi has, at Flushing Meadows, also achieved more than mere sporting success. His soft-spoken words, after some moments of true brilliance on the court, made it a point to emphasise that Pakistanis were not terrorists but people who sought peace. Through his message Qureshi has done more than anything achieved by government officials or diplomats. He has also delivered an important message by establishing a highly successful partnership with an Indian. The two South Asians offered us a glimpse into what kind of friendship is possible and what, indeed should be the relationship between the two nations who share so much in common yet stand so far apart. Perhaps the images of Bopanna’s parents warmly clapping on the pair will help us all draw a little nearer and embrace the unity which must be generated for the sake of harmony in the region.
On a less philosophical note, Aisam-ul-Haq’s feat has demonstrated how much talent lies within our soil. It is true that he himself comes from a tennis-playing family and has enjoyed all the advantages this brings. But there are tens of thousands of other young men and women who possess similar potential. It should not be left up to families to develop this. Our sporting bodies need to develop programmes to draw children from across the country into sporting schemes of many kinds. These should of course offer opportunities in a range of sports. There is every reason to believe a well thought-out plan help us once more attain success on the world stage and also offer direction to under-privileged children who at present see few opportunities in life.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 15th, 2010.
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