“Sport is my identity and ju-jitsu has been such a great part of who I have been. I came back because there was this drive to do something better, something more for the country,” Pakistan’s top ju-jitsu athlete Abu Hurraira Dhanani feels that there has to be an overhaul of sports in Pakistan, but at least it should begin with recognition.
Hurraira has bagged two bronze medals in the recently concluded Asian Ju-Jitsu championship in Abu Dhabi. He took the medals in men’s and mixed show system, while making his comeback to the international events after three years.
Hurraira has been one of the most successful atheltes that Pakistan produced in the last 10 years. He has multiple Asian medals including gold and silver medals in Asian Championship in 2010 and 2012. He went on to take the gold medal at the Asian Beach Games in 2014. Then he had a breakthrough performance for any Pakistani at the World Championship in 2015, where he took the silver medal. He carried on with his winning ways in 2016 Asian Championship too, along with the 2017 Asian Indoor Games.
But Hurraira is troubled, he is tired and he wants change. He belongs to the memon community of Karachi, and might just be one of the most successful athletes produced by the community too.
But even though his own community is known for businesses and economic achievements, he feels that it is the dearth of the finance in sports that has been a huge hindrance for the athletes.
“I know I am a Memonand our community is a business community mostly. I tried my own community too to get sponsors, but all in vain. Even in the Asian championship, we went on self-help basis with no support from the government, and even though we came back with medals, we have been ignored completely,” said Hurraira.
Hurraira said that he, along with the seven other members in the Pakistan team that competed in Abu Dhabi, trained for at least four months with their focus on the championship.
The squad included three women athletes and five men, while they were accompanied by their coach and mentor and Pakistan Ju-Jitsu Federation official Tariq Ali, who also holds a place at the Asian Ju-Jitsu Union.
All eight athletes won medals. Pakistan took eight bronze medals in men’s duo system and show system, women’s duo system and show system, mixed duo system and mixed show system. The squad had Hurraira, Muhammad Ammar, Ali Rashid, Dilawar Khan Sannan and Zayan Muneer, Kainat Arif, Isra Wasim and Fatima Irfan competing in the event.
Hurraira said that he had to give up the sport for three years because there had been no support from any corner, and he now just wants the corporate sector to invest and earn from sports.
“Investment in sports is key. We have seen that the countries we used to beat at the Aisan level have improved so much now. They are defeating us. It is embarrassing because everyone else in the region has been improving with more resources to their disposal, for their training, while we are still stuck where we were.
“This needs to change, Pakistanis should look at the achievements of other sportspersons too besides cricket,” said Hurraira.
He said that he saw marked difference in Thailand.
He added that even at the championship that took place from September 13 till 16, he saw that other teams, including India, who they defeated in the quarter-finals, had a healthy strength of contingent while Pakistan only had eight players.
“India won 12 medals altogether and they had far more players than us. But we did our best and got eight medals. Each one of us tried our best despite limited facilities and resource that we had. This should give a good picture about the potential we have and how much more investment is required in ju-jitsu,” said Hurraira.
He said that he is proud of Thailand players but now the stagnancy in the approach towards ju-jitsu and lack of focus by the government and the corporate sector is embarrassing for the players and him.
“We are all Karachi based. We all trained in our own capacity. We don’t even ask for the money for our diet or anything, but we do need sponsorship for the events,” said the 31-year-old. “We have new players with us. For me, since 2010, I have seen how we get ignored, but it was so disappointing to see that our young generation of players won medals now at the Asian Championship and no one cared. This is heart-breaking for us.”
He said that the next event is the World championship in Abu Dhabi again and now is the time for the sponsors to help, as Pakistan can win more medals and bring more accolades home.