Afghan gymnastics players seek patronization by authorities

Wasim Sajjad

TIMERGARA: At the zenith of the sun, with the tunes echoing mountains due to the flow of air and with the streaming of water at river Panjkora, few Afghan boys who live in Taimar Camp, Timergara, Lower Dir, play gymnastics here. The game makes a picturesque moment before the sunset need to behold. Many spectators sit here and there while the boys are surrounded by the local Afghan kids shouting, laughing, chanting and clapping for the players.

Stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea, one of the players, Ubaid Ullah, whose age would not be more than 15 years, told that he was a student of class 10th at a local government school and had learned gymnastics at the bank of river Panjokara, adding that he along with his friends had learned the sport from his elder brother Haleem Ullah here without any facilities.

The point of discussion was very heart breaking when Mr. Ubaid said that he had played many games on behalf of the government but when he reached the final he was asked for his National Identity Card of Pakistan which he lacked and was stopped from playing final rounds many times.

Mr. Ubaid with tearful eyes said that they had everything here in Pakistan even they were born and grew up here then why the government was not allowing them to play on national and international level. Another serious hurt was felt when he said that even Afghanistan disowned them.

This scribe sarcastically asked Mr. Ubaid that he wouldn’t be a good player and would be blaming the authorities, however, he said, “I have more than 65 medals. I have won even a MMA (Mix Marshal Art) Fight. I have got gold medals in many places like Upper Dir, Lower Dir and Swat.” He was so confident that he challenged to arrange a game for him.

There was a person who had a strong body and long hairs standing cool and calm was introduced as Haleem Ullah, the teacher and brother of Ubaid Ullah. Talking in a soft tune and polite manner Mr. Haleem told us about himself that he had a very strange story of learning the gymnastics. When asked, he said that he was playing it for the last 11 years and had learned it when there was no trainer at Lower Dir, so he went Swat to learn but there he found that the trainer was not too good, so he left for Peshawar and few months later he was advised to go to Karachi to further enhance his skills and he went there.

Mr. Haleem told that when he came back to his hometown, he wanted to continue the gymnastics and train the local youngsters as well, but he had no resources to utilize, adding that finally he found the river side useful for the training.

He stated that when he started the training he had no facilities but now he had his own academy and had around 130 students. He also claimed that he was not charging any fee from the students but the students were told to contribute themselves so that the expenses and rent of the building could be paid.

“It is my passion to train the people for gymnastics. I also train the students of three government schools in Timergara and charge not a single penny,” he said, saying that last year the winner of provincial schools annul competitions gymnastics team was trained by him.

Both the brothers have demanded the governments of Afghanistan or Pakistan and the concerned authorities to support and patronize them in their struggle and noble cause as it is a matter of great importance with respect to the future of the youth.

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