ISLAMABAD - International Bodybuilding and Fitness Association (IBFA) Pakistan Chapter chairman Bilal Asif has promised to take four Pakistani junior and senior players each to the next year’s International Bodybuilding and Fitness Championship in Italy.

Bilal expressed these views during an exclusive interview with The Nation on Wednesday. He said: “I am a bodybuilder and have participated in a number of national and international events. I toured Italy in 2012 to feature in the International Bodybuilding competition and finished 7th there. It was a good performance from my side, as I had no international exposure prior to that event, so finishing seventh was a huge achievement for me, because 63 bodybuilders form across the globe were contesting in Rome, where the arena was pack to capacity.”

He said: “I met with the IBFA officials in Italy and informed them about the bodybuilding talent in Pakistan and how much youth is involved in this healthy sports. They took keen interest and thus nominated me as chairman of Pakistan chapter in 2014. Since then I have met with different bodybuilding club owners and officials of bodybuilding. I have managed to gather people, who want to do something for Pakistan.

“I met with highly dedicated people, who also have experience of hosting top level competitions in Pakistan and abroad. I have requested the Asian Handicapped Cricket Association (AHCA) chairman Raja Imran Ali to join hands with me, as I know he was instrumental in conducting Pak-India handicapped cricket series, Afghanistan series and also travelled to different parts of the world. I want to take advantage of his experience and contacts, and the good news is that he very kindly has agreed to join hands and also assured his all-out support for my cause,” he added.

Bilal said as a bodybuilder, he had participated in a number of events. “I contested in Mr Capital in 2009 and grabbed the second position. I also took part in Mr Punjab contest in 2010 and again bagged the second place while in 2011, I participated in Mr Pakistan contest and again secured the second position. Then the same year, I decided to take part in Mr Asia-Pacific in Philippines and bagged the fourth position while in 2012, I took part in the world championship in Italy and secured the seventh place.”

He said in 2014, he participated in the world’s mega event Mr Olympia in Moscow, Russia, where the world’s top bodybuilders had gathered. “It was the biggest stage and I performed really well and managed to earn the 11th position amongst the galaxy of stars. After that, I shifted my focus in conducting the international competition in Pakistan. I stopped participating and even practicing and just focusing on bringing international stars to Pakistan.”

He said the main aim of joining hands with the IBFA was to provide Pakistani bodybuilders a platform where they could not only showcase their skills but also understand the rules and regulations of bodybuilding. “Pakistan is highly blessed that only a few deaths were occurred due to substance usage mainly because the bodybuilders can’t afford expensive drugs, or else deaths could have been alarming. We will also provide basic education about bodybuilding and ensure youth will join this as sports not a way to get cheap publicity overnight.”

“I will start a countrywide tour after Eid and visit all the major cities to unearth fresh talent. We will hold a bodybuilding contest in Islamabad next month and from that, we will select talented bodybuilders and start training them in a camp in Islamabad. After that, we will take four junior and four senior bodybuilders to Italy for international competition,” he added.

“I know the main obstacle will be funds but I believe after conducting some successful mega events, the sponsors will come forward and lend a helping hand to us. I don’t want to gather money for personal interests, but first, I want to show what I want to do and then will definitely meet with sponsors, as without money, no sports can flourish,” Bilal concluded.