KARACHI: It's a common occurrence in Pakistan for sportsmen to experience the financial pinch and go venting their frustration to anyone who'd lend an ear. Or a microphone.
Their rants make for spicy news stories at first but only until the spice runs dry due to repetition. Suddenly, the athlete with banal complaints aplenty is entertained by no one.
To stop his fellow sportsmen from falling into this abyss, snooker star Muhammad Asif has come up with a solution: sports entrepreneurship.
Asif, a former IBSF World Champion, recently opened up a new snooker club-cum-academy in his hometown of Faisalabad — a setup with 10 full-size tables, great ambience, and more importantly, his mentorship.
Owning a business, he feels, is a must for every sportsman in a land where the sport in itself doesn't reap the rewards required to feed their passion.
“You need to open your own clubs and academies if you are playing in Pakistan,” Asif told The Express Tribune. "Whoever gets a chance and has a little investment, they should open a club because there is no sponsorship for the players.”
He himself may not fall in this bracket of players but he knows he is among the lucky few. "I have the National Bank of Pakistan backing me up, but I'm an exception rather than the rule,” said Asif. “Most players neither have sponsorships nor do the government pitches in, so it's better to open a club or academy to take care of yourself."
Asif doesn't just act like a business owner, he thinks like one too, not shy to take risks, or in this case, switch locations if things aren't working out.
“I had a club in Lahore but it was difficult for me to travel there every now and then, and I also wasn't getting the same kind of response I was expecting; in my hometown I think there is more scope, hence the new opening."
Despite Asif 'the business owner' being completely engrossed in his new venture, he still is a sportsman at his core and carefully switches between the two modes per the situation's need.
On rare occasions though, he lets loose both sides of his personality simultaneously as on the topic of snooker's popularity (or lack thereof) among women. It's a cause of great disappointment for Asif but also an opportunity for the shrewd businessman in him to add to his clientele.
“Women are not as interested in snooker as men. If ever there are any women or girls children who want to start playing snooker, my club is there," says the welcome host. "We can provide them a safe and friendly environment.”
But why stop at women?
“Programme should also be set up in schools and colleges so our next generation can understand the rules and techniques of snooker," feels Asif.
Wishful thinking, some may call it, but don't be surprised if Asif — Pakistan's own Charlie Hustle — one day manages to put together such a programme. Because this self-starter's drive and ambition knows no boundaries.
(Edited by Zohaib Ahmed)
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