Jiu-Jitsu in Pakistan: diamonds in the dust
Jiu-Jitsu is a sport where Pakistani athletes consistently shine, according to Isra Waseem, who has won gold, silver and bronze medals for the country on the international stage.
This claim is true in the light of day as Pakistani athletes won eight bronze medals at the fifth Asian Championship held in Abu Dhabi in September this year.
Despite the success, a few months later, one of the country’s most prolific Jiu-Jitsu players Muhammad Ammar was unable to participate in the Jiu-Jitsu World Championship held in Abu Dhabi in November due to lack of funds.
âI couldn’t find any sponsors for myself,â Ammar explained in a conversation with Bol News. “Each player must organize funds to participate in these events.”
Although a Pakistani contingent took part in the event, they were unable to secure a medal and it was no surprise that one of their brightest hopes of securing a podium place failed. travel due to lack of financial resources.
Ammar has been national champion since 2008 in the Men’s Duo System with his teammate Abu Huraira. He has won three gold, four silver and one bronze for the country in his career so far.
After playing regularly on the international stage, the 30-year-old alongside Huraira has been ranked third in the world.
âWe had qualified for the 2017 World Games in Poland by then and we were the only ones from Pakistan who qualified for the event on merit,â said Ammar. They couldn’t win a medal for the country, but they were proud of their achievement nonetheless.
The condition of Jiu-Jitsu is no different from that of any other individual sport in the country where the athletes are begging the authorities to provide them at least the minimum support so that they can train and participate in different tournaments.
Isra is happy with the recognition she has received during her short career so far. However, she questioned the role of government in the whole scenario and wants the authorities to be more accountable about it.
âPakistani media gives us extensive coverage, but the government must also like us,â she said. âThey supported us in some events, but I just hope they support us constantly. We don’t just play for money. Many countries have this monetary rewards policy but we just want their support [for training and travelling]. “
Ammar explained the dire situation of Pakistan Jiu-Jitsu Federation funds in the country and argued that it has been a long time since the governing body received any kind of financial support from the government.
“The Federation used to get funds from the government, but they haven’t been getting them for a few years,” he said. âIt’s been at least five years since they got it. After 2012, when they got the affiliation [with the Pakistan Sports Board], they only got the funds for a few years.
Moreover, according to Ammar, a lower social class Jiu-Jitsu player cannot support himself by simply playing the sport in Pakistan.
Ammar, who started practicing martial arts in 2005, got a job in the Navy in 2012, but he was not happy with their sports policy. He resigned from there and joined with WAPDA. This job has helped him a lot to survive financially.
However, he believes the situation may worsen following the revelation of new government policies.
âI have a business and a job to cover my expenses,â he explained. âNow, according to the federal government’s new policy, the funds for sport will be returned to the regions and they will distribute it more. This will further harm sport in the country. “
He further maintained that despite a budget of Rs 2 billion, sports in Sindh are in dire straits. Children from the lower social class used to believe that government jobs would help them sustain themselves, now the situation is going to get worse.
In contrast, 21-year-old Isra, who is studying for a doctorate in pharmacy at the University of Karachi, is self-motivated and believes that if someone has the will, they can survive.
âI am freelance and run a small online business to meet my expenses,â she said. âAnd when I have a degree, I can also find a job. If you’re ready, you can do it all.
Isra wants to pursue both studies and Jiu-Jitsu simultaneously in the future, because practicing martial arts is her passion and having “Dr” attached to her name is her parents’ wish.
âMy parents wanted me to become a doctor but I wanted to play sports. Now I do both, âshe repeated. “I want to win medals for the country in international competitions.”
On the other hand, Ammar has a hard time staying motivated and he often loses the courage to pursue his dreams.
“Sometimes we lose heart, but it’s our sportsmanship that keeps us going,” he said.
The repeatedly national champion has low expectations from the authorities; so he appealed to private sponsors to fund him and other athletes who can bring glory to the country.
âIndividual sports like boxing and Jiu-Jitsu have a greater possibility of winning medals. If private companies sponsor us, we can earn more medals for the country,â he urged.