LAHORE - Pakistan's Chico Mohammed, Ali Shan Muzahir and Rana Maqsood lost 19-12 to Australia at Kelvingrove, although they were actually 12-11 in the Lawn Bowls Men’s triple sectional event on the opening day.
The two men, who jointly owned, the Alishan Restaurant in Glasgow’s Mount Florida district are both members of the Clarkston Bowling Club, which sits in the leafy suburbs of Glasgow’s south side. The pair are top players on the domestic circuit, but neither had ever represented the country of their births until the call came through from Pakistani officials a few months ago.
“I think they only picked us because they know we can’t claim any travelling expenses,” joked Chico at the time, when he found his name in the contingent.
As lawn bowls is not a major sport in Pakistan, the team would have struggled to raise funds to send competitors had they not been able to call on players who were already based in the host city. One of the other players in the four-man team is research student M Shahzad, who is studying for a PhD in biochemistry at Glasgow University and has been playing bowls for only three years. The line-up is completed by Rana Maqsood, the only player who actually lives in Pakistan. The country has never previously competed in the event.
Ali and Chico, both 55, though have failed to produce win but were elated to represent the country. “It was beyond our wildest dreams,” said Chico. “When the Pakistan Lawn Bowls Federation phoned us, we thought they were going to ask us to do some coaching. But when they asked us to play, we were stunned. I couldn’t sleep all night.”
Ali said: “I was over the moon when I found out. It’s everyone’s dream to be asked to represent your country. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” Both men were born in Pakistan but emigrated to Scotland at an early age.
Pakistan have sent a sixty-two member squad for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. The Green Team is hoping to improve on the five-medal haul they received in Delhi. Representatives of the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) and the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) are accompanying the team on this trip.
The Pakistan squad comprising of both men and women will take part across eight events including badminton, boxing, gymnastics, shooting, swimming, table tennis, weightlifting and wrestling. The Pakistan team travel to Scotland hoping to emulate the success of the 1962 squad who won eight gold medals at the Commonwealth Games held in Perth, Australia.
The Pakistan team has trained hard in preparation for the big event. It is expected that Pakistan will excel in the sports of boxing and wrestling. Wrestling has been the most successful event for Pakistan at the Commonwealth Games, having won thirty-seven medals, including twenty Gold.
Pakistani boxers were given a boost with the news that they will be training at Amir Khan’s gym in Bolton. Secretary-General of the Pakistan Boxing Federation, Iqbal Hussain said: “We will be having a good training programme at the most modern gym of Amir and his guidance will be a blessing for our boxers who will be learning the finer points of the game from the world known boxer.”
Pakistan has not fielded a men’s hockey team for the Commonwealth Games following a split in the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA). The decision of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) to ignore the IOC (International Olympic Committee) backed faction of the POA is one, which will certainly damage Pakistan hockey. Speaking on the issue, POA President, Arif Hasan said: “Every Pakistani has emotional association with hockey, but the apathy from the hockey officials has led to this exclusion.”
Michael Hooper, Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) added: “Unfortunately common sense hasn’t prevailed. It’s sad. The POA did everything they could to get the PHF to work with them but it simply did not happen.”
Pakistan’s main hopes for medals lie with M Inam Butt (Wrestling) who won Pakistan’s second gold at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games. In the 83 kg freestyle final, he defeated India’s Anuj Kumar 3-1 on points. Hoping to repeat his achievement from four years back, a confident Butt said: “I have been doing hard work for the last two years to clinch the Gold Medal at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. I’m very much optimistic to achieve my target.” Inam will participate in the 86kg-wrestling event.
Another wrestler, Qamar Abbas is also a bright medal prospect for the men in green. Qamar is one to watch out for as he is currently in incredible form. He has been tipped by many to do well at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Describing his talent, Pakistan Wrestling Federation (PFW) President, Chaudhary Asghar said: “Qamar is new but a brave fighter. He is mentally tough like our experienced Azhar and this trait goes in his favour.” Qamar will feature in the 74kg-wrestling event.
Quetta-born boxer, Muhammad Waseem participated in the Light Flyweight (49 kg) division at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. He defeated Paddy Burns of Northern Ireland to win a Bronze medal for Pakistan. Wasim is nicknamed China Man for his swift style of boxing. Introducing new techniques for the Commonwealth Games, Waseem said: “We have to play without head-guard and keeping in view this thing I have changed my playing style. In the new style, I will more focus on counter-attack and I feel it will help me. I have also changed my block style and you will now see me in quite a different form as a boxer,” added the 26-year-old. Wasim is the captain of the Pakistan team and will compete in the 56 kg flyweight division.
Azhar Hussain is an army wrestler from the Muzaffargarh district in Pakistan. He won a Gold and Silver medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games held in Delhi, India. Hussain won Pakistan’s first Gold Medal in wresting since 1970 after beating Nigeria’s Ebikewenimo Welsonin the second session of the 55 kg freestyle final. Despite struggling with form, Azhar has been selected for the 57kg-wrestling event in Glasgow.
Muhammad Salman won a Bronze Medal after defeating New Zealand’s Andrei Poulet (66 kg match) at the 2009 Commonwealth Wrestling Championships held in Jalandhar, India. Having failed to win a medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Salman will be determined to follow in the footsteps of Inam and Azhar. Salman will take part in the 65kg-wrestling event. Having arrived late in Scotland, the Pakistan team will have to quickly acclimatise with the conditions in Glasgow. Team Pakistan will be disappointed if they come back empty handed from the 2014 Commonwealth Games.