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Karachi athletes should get the recognition they deserve

Karachi athletes should get the recognition they deserve

KARACHI has once served as hub of athletics, both track and field, and a long list of athletes who have donned Pakistan colours speaks high about the talent the city had produced in the last 70 years.

By and large athletics has remained the domain of Army who enjoyed supremacy in most of the events even at the Asian level. The names of celebrities like Khaliq, Raziq and a hosts of others, will always stand tall.

However, the former Karachi athletes have overcome Herculean task in the presence of soldiers time and again and it’s like taking the bread out of one’s mouth.

In one of the memorable performance, Karachi quartet shocked the soldiers by capturing the 4x100 metres relay gold at the 11th National Games held at Dhaka in 1968. The winning quartet comprised John Permal, Mohammad Talib, Ali Kamani and Paul Alphonso.

The present generation doesn’t know about the heroics of Permal, who remained undisputed ‘Fastest Man of Pakistan’ from 1964 to 1974.

Alumni of St Anthony’s School and St Patrick’s College, the 71-year-old Permal’s best timings of 100 metres sprint was 10.4 that he clocked at the Bonn athletic meet in 1969.

Statistics show that he had represented Pakistan at the 1972 Munich Olympics, two Asian Games — 1966 and 1970, both held at Bangkok — Commonwealth Games at Edinburgh besides many other international meets.

International 110 metres hurdler Talib has made valuable contribution to the country’s athletics, both as an athlete and as a coach.

His pupils, the figures comes in thousands, are spread all over the country and abroad who have won laurels to the nation. At 80 plus, he is fit like a fiddle and can be seen daily at his Athletic Fitness School (AFS) that he had established in 1977 at the now Abdul Sattar Edhi Hockey Stadium.

International Arshad Saleem made his mark in pole vault, Zafar Ibne Yaqoob in shot put, Noor-ul-Hasan in high jump, Naseeb Gul in long jump, Meesaq Rizvi in 800 metres, Mehboob Dawood in 400 metres among others.

Abid Hussain, who represented the country in middle distance (800 metres), has died.

Besides Talib, Ali Haider and Tariq Gujjar also represented the country at the World Universiad in high jump.

Kamani, who could not get a colour, was also declared Fastest Man of Pakistan. Those who also excelled at the national level were Muzaffar Wafai, Benjamin Gill, Essa Ghanchi, Yousuf Nazimuddin, Rafiq Sheikh and A. Rehman among many others.

The Karachi women’s athlete also did not lag behind and win laurels globally. South Asian sprint queen Naseem Hameed, sprinter Silvia D’ Mello, Naushaba Khan, Bazgha Ali, Connie Yeo, Tasneem Fatima, Dolores Almeida, Cheryl Lucas, Kulsoom Syed are among others.

Once bitter rivals on the track and field in the yore, former athletes of the Olympian and Asian Clubs in a re-union have vowed to repay the debt by reviving the old athletic culture that has produced a large number of stalwarts in the metropolis.

They unanimously deplored the standard of athletics in Sindh, Karachi in particular, that has gone down drastically over the years.

The occasion was a get-together in honour of former long distance athlete Mohammad Raza who has arrived from Chicago after over four decades.

They welcomed the return of national athletics to Karachi after over a decade, 12 years to be precise.

The former athletes discussed ways and means for the revival of track and field activities at the grassroots level.

It is high time that the Athletics Federation of Pakistan (AFP) should honour former Karachi athletes during the national meet.

Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2017

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