Pakistan’s forgotten karate kid dreams big



KARACHI: Karate gold medalist Saadi Abbas has his eyes set on the next goal: the recognition of karate talent within Pakistan.


“My win should open the government’s and the corporate sector’s eyes. They should realise that there are other sports besides cricket,” Pakistan’s recent champion tells The Express Tribune after winning the US Championship 2014 67-kg title.


The 26-year-old from Lyari, who defeated Pan American champion J Henry in the final bout on April 21 in Las Vegas to claim the title, is more concerned about his future in karate than thrilled about his victory at his debut performance at the US Championship this year.


“With my recent win, the least the government should do is acknowledge that we have talent in karate. They should set up camps for players. I might just quit this year if things don’t improve for the sport till the Asian Games in September as I can’t afford to compete and bear the expenses of going to different countries for championships on my own,” said Abbas.


The athlete has an impressive profile. He was the first South Asian to bag the gold medal in the Asian Karate Championship 2011; he also won the gold medal in South Africa for Pakistan at the Commonwealth Champions 2010 and later regained his title last year in Canada.


He said that while talking about quitting is painful, he sees no light at the end of the dark tunnel.


“It’s not an easy thing for me to say. I still remember how I began taking karate seriously. I come from Lyari, where I grew up before my father moved to Dubai to give us a better future. I used to practise near Kakri ground. There was a national institute where I used to train. My biggest motivation is to make Pakistanis proud, but it is getting difficult for me,” said Abbas.


Abbas’ complaints are not directed at the Pakistan Karate Federation, as he understands that the body is dependent on funds from the government.


He feels the encouragement needs to come from fans as well as the corporate sector.


“It disturbs me that it’s not only the government but the apathy of corporate sponsors, who can’t seem to promote anyone else other than cricketers. If they have to do advertisement campaigns, they would never come to other athletes even though some of us have achieved a lot and are physically attractive too!” he said candidly.


However, his mood changed when he talked about the upcoming World Championship which will take place three weeks after the Asian Games in September.


“I need help. The government should at least help me with boarding and lodging when I go to compete abroad,” he said.


Abbas explained that he is self-taught. “It’s embarrassing but I don’t have a coach – I can’t afford one,” said Abbas. “I research about how to take care of my body in order to keep it fit and agile. I lose at least three to four kilos before any major championship. Other than that I keep asking different coaches that I meet for tips and watch videos of my opponents to understand their tactics. That has worked for me so far.”


The young athlete wishes to pursue a Master’s degree in Physical Education, if he quits the sport altogether.


“I suppose I have to look out for my future other than karate. I will keep going till I can, but after a while everyone will forget my name, so I’m preparing for that time,” he said.


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