Where cricket is virtually a religion while hockey and squash are supreme sports but badminton could soon be joining the list of popular sports in Pakistan.
Pakistan have embarked on a “long badminton journey” began last year with the hosting of its first International Series tournament in Islamabad after an absence of nine years.
A total of A total of 56 players from eight countries took part in the International Series where Pakistan won the men’s through Rizwan Azam and also the women’s singles (Palwasha Bashir) apart from winning the men’s and women’s doubles.
The men’s doubles winners were Rizwan and Sulehri Kashif Ali while Palwasha partnered Saemah Manzur for the women’s doubles title. The only title that eluded Pakistan was the mixed doubles – won by the Tamang siblings Ratnajit-Nangsal from Nepal.
This year’s Pakistan International Series will be held in Islamabad again from Nov 9-12 with Wajid counting on more countries to compete and expects a bigger field.
Pakistan Badminton Federation secretary-general Wajid Ali Chaudhry has got the ball rolling with big changes in the federation since he took over the hot-seat in 2015 – cutting out politics that threatened to ruin the sport.
Determined to put Pakistan on the Badminton Asia map, Wajid, at the age of 34, is the youngest ever secretary-general of the Pakistan Badminton Federation.
He knows the shuttle sport all too well. Being a former international himself Wajid was the Pakistan national singles champion nine times between the years 1999 to 2013, and doubles champion with Azhan Kamal in 2006.
Wajid played in four Commonwealth Games, starting the 1998 Games in Kuala Lumpur followed by Manchester (2002), Melbourne (2006) and New Delhi (2010). He has no set high goals for the sport in his country.
Pakistan will also hold their badminton league in December this year with eight teams – including Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi, Sialkot and Gujarawala – competing.
Pakistan’s best ever badminton name was Tariq Wadood, who was once ranked third in the world from 1982-1983.
Wajid is grateful to Badminton Asia for their priceless help to change the face of badminton in Pakistan.
“With the help of Badminton Asia we have conducted Level One course in Lahore followed by two “Shuttle Time” courses – a basic course to train the students and the teachers.
The “Shuttle Time” has become very popular with lesser known badminton playing nations in Asia.
More importantly, Wajid is look at the future of the game which in his own words is “on the right track” and has marked the next three to four years to have Pakistan players ranked in the top 50 at least.
“The juniors in Pakistan have big potential and talent,” added Wajid, who is happy to have his family business involved in the sport. Wajid’s family owns the Pakistan International School in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen and Pakistan.
Currently four Pakistan players – Sohaib Riaz, Basit Khan, Syed Daanyal Ali and R. Haider are in Jakarta, competing in the Badminton Asia Junior Championships. – BY RIZAL ABDULLAH