KARACHI: Pakistan has failed yet another boxing legend Olympian Usmanullah Khan and his family as he passed away in Canada, losing the battle to a brain tumour. He had qualified and represented the country in Atlanta and Sydney Olympics.
After being diagnosed with a brain tumour, Usmanullah had been bed-ridden for the past two years. Despite his achievements and the name he made for Pakistan, the appeals made by his family to the government of Pakistan, the Pakistan Sports Board and the Pakistan Boxing Federation for help all went in vain as their calls were conveniently ignored.
In early February, one of his former students Peter Pollock came to visit him and upon seeing his condition and learning that the government has not extended any assistance, Pollock decided to shift Usmanullah to Canada for a treatment.
However, it was already too late as Canadian doctors also declared the legend’s condition to be in a critical state and advised that further treatment was not possible. As a result, Rizwanullah appealed to the government of Pakistan to make arrangements so that the boxing legend could be flown back to Pakistan in an air ambulance.
“As an alternative to providing us with an air ambulance, we requested the government send our family members to Canada so that they could bring Usmanullah back to Faisalabad, but our pleas were declined,” Rizwanullah told The Express Tribune.
"All we wanted was to see Usmanullah alive for one last time. It would have given him a chance to spend the last moments of his life with his family, but it couldn’t happen because the government did not respond, nobody helped us.”
He added that the Punjab government tried to reach out to his family to help with Usmanullah’s treatment but nothing happened after that.
"I know we are living in a society that does not care – the government, the leaders, they don't care about humanity or athletes. I am only requesting the people of Pakistan to say a prayer for our brother."
Family yearns to see boxing legend one last time
He added that Usmanullah's burial should happen in Pakistan and not in Canada and the family is trying to arrange for the funeral, however, no support has been offered by the government yet.
“I request the federal minter for inter provincial coordination of Pakistan Fahmida Mirza to help arrange an air ambulance so that we could bring Usmanullah's body to Faisalabad as the Sports Board of Pakistan comes under Mirza's ministry,” he said. “We could not bring him back to Pakistan alive, so this is all we ask for.”
Born in Faisalabad, the 45-year-old boxer won a silver medal in 1994 Asian Games light-welterweight event, toured 29 countries and won 19 international medals.
It seems like his passion for the sport ran in the blood as his brother Rizwanullah Khan, who is also a former boxer, said that they both developed an interest in the sport at a very young age.
Remembering Usmanullah, fellow boxer Ashgar Changezi said that when he found out about Usmanullah’s ailment, he only wanted to pray for his condition, but deep down, he knew the government will not help.
"All I can do right now is to pray for Usmanullah’s departed soul and his family. His departure is not only sad for us but also a big loss for the country!” he lamented.
Meanwhile, mentor and international referee judge Ali Akbar Shah Qadri said that for Pakistanis, it is only about cricket.
“Pakistanis only care about cricket. All the money, attention and support goes there. No one cares about other athletes even though they have fought for the country too,” he said.
Like Qadri, Muhammad Waseem, Pakistan's first boxer to lift the World Boxing Council title, said that he knew about Usmanullah's condition and he tried to ask people for help but no one responded.
"I'm just very upset, it is heartbreaking and disturbing!” he said. “Usmanullah has left a legacy behind him. He will always be remembered for that.”