KARACHI: Pakistan sepaktakraw players have been bringing medals home since 2011, but still await recognition and applause for their efforts that go largely unnoticed.
Just two days back, the national team returned from the 2015 Kings Cup Sepaktakraw World Championship in Thailand accompanied by a bronze medal each in the men’s and women’s categories.
The men’s team bagged the medal in division two of the competition, finishing third behind Australia and Chinese Taipei, while the women’s team defeated Malaysia, Japan and Laos in their event.
“We are among the top 33 countries in the world and it’s unjust that we have no support from the government,” coach Arif Hafeez told The Express Tribune. “We’ve been winning bronze in the championship since 2011, and the attitude of our international competitors has changed towards us.
“Earlier, they used to laugh at our effort, now they encourage us as they can see we’ve improved and remain consistent in our endeavours.”
Other countries competing at the biggest competition of the sport were hosts Thailand, China, Brunei Darussalam, Korea, US, Belgium, Vietnam, India, Singapore, Switzerland and the Philippines in the Premier division and Division one leagues.
According to men’s team captain Shabbir Ahmed, winning a bronze in the country’s comparatively new sport is almost as good as winning a gold medal for him. “If you look at the challenges we face, like paying for training and travelling ourselves without any support from the government, it’s no small achievement. We go up against countries that have been playing this sport for the last 40-45 years.”
Bent but not broken
Women’s captain Hina Rajput revealed that she continued playing despite sustaining a knee injury on the third day of the championship.
“Although the doctors told me to leave the match, I continued and I’m glad that we won the bronze medal,” said Hina. “It’s been a struggle, but I don’t regret my decision because raising Pakistan’s flag and finishing the championship with a medal is worth the risk.”
Hina will now have to take a six-month break to recover. Pakistan also finished second at the South Asian Championship before going to Bangkok.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2015.
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