Under-16 Rugby World cup: Open your eyes Pakistan, talent for sports other than cricket exist!
Pakistanis are quite cricket crazy and of course, hockey enjoys some fan following, being the national sport. In recent years, even football has made forays into the Pakistani sporting arena. However, bring up rugby and you will still get blank looks from most Pakistanis.
In Pakistan, not too many people are familiar with the sport of rugby in spite of the fact that this sport has many enthusiasts all over the world. But things seem to be changing gradually. For the first time ever, nine rugby players from a private school’s rugby team in Faisalabad have been chosen to represent Pakistan in the under-16 Rugby World Cup this month. This team includes Harris Khan, the team captain, Mehmood Butt who is the vice captain, Musa Abbas, Ikram Noor, Ahmad Chuhdary, Muhammad bin Yaseen, Talha Ayoob, Shahzaiv Mukhtar and Ali Murtaza.
These young players practiced very hard for the world rugby title held in England this month. Practice sessions were carried out at a camp in Faisalabad and the young team was all geared up and excited to wave Pakistan’s flag in the international rugby tournament for the first time. The boys departed from Faisalabad on March 22, 2014 for Islamabad from where they flew to London the next day to take part in the under-16 Rugby World Cup in Rosslyn Park. According to the team captain, a total of 657 teenagers participated in the event.
Being the first junior Rugby team from Pakistan, the players said that they felt very proud that they got to take part in the junior Rugby World Cup and represent Pakistan in an international sports event. The pride and excitement of the players and their families was apparent as they spoke about the upcoming tournament.
Harris, the team captain said,
“We are thrilled to have this opportunity to represent Pakistan in the international arena. Our inspiration comes from Anas Aatir and Mudassir Malik.”
Anas and Mudassar represented Pakistan in the under-19 rugby tournament in 2013 and they also belong to the same institute.
The parents of these players seemed very supportive and excited for the young team as well, despite the fact that there is no government support for this sport in the country. Although these young players were chosen to represent the country in the international rugby arena, there was no recognition, appreciation or financial support from the government’s end.
Even the rugby practice camp in Faisalabad was arranged by the players and their families only out of a keen interest in the sport. The team captain’s father, Rana Shehzad, said,
“Parents provided all the financial support for the players including visa, travel and accommodation expenses.”
It seems as if the players and their families have decided that ‘when there is a will there is a way’ and this is their way of showcasing their talent to perhaps, gain some government support in the future. They believe that when they can reach this level without any government support and guidance, the sky will truly be the limit for the sport of rugby in Pakistan once they are able to gain the government’s attention and funds start coming their way.
These teenagers are trained by Mr Javaid, their coach, and Mr Mohsin, who is the captain of the Pakistan Rugby team. They started their training three months ago and have not left any stone unturned in their quest to give their best performance at the international level. About their preparation for the tournament, Mr Javaid said,
“We practiced hard to give the competing teams a run for their money.”
And it seems like their efforts paid off. They played four matches out of which they won one, lost one and ended the other two in a tie. For a young team competing internationally for the first time, I would say hats off to them. At the same time, I also wish the government would realise the immense talent our youngsters have in the field of sports other than cricket and hockey.
They should acknowledge and appreciate the heights these boys have been able to reach only on the basis of their own dreams and aspirations as well as the willingness and support of their coaches and parents. A little promotion, encouragement and financial support from relevant officials can go a long way in not only realising the dreams of these youngsters but also in establishing the country’s name in the field of international rugby.
Faisalabad boys, we wish you best of luck for your future. You made us proud!