CWG 2022 | Deposed by the government, the Pakistan badminton contingent finds a last minute sponsor to reach Birmingham

The Pakistan Sports Board removed badminton from its Commonwealth Games contingent earlier this month due to lack of funds

The Pakistan Sports Board removed badminton from its Commonwealth Games contingent earlier this month due to lack of funds

A four-man Pakistani badminton team, the standard squad size is eight, made it to Birmingham against all odds. The players, including Olympic gold medalist Mahoor Shahzad, shouldn’t be here in Birmingham.

Pakistan’s Sports Authority removed badminton from its Commonwealth Games contingent earlier this month due to a lack of funds, dashed their hopes before finding a last-minute sponsor in the country’s Olympic body.

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With government support also non-existent and private players supporting only cricket, Shahzad says being a sportswoman in her country is difficult, although awareness of racquet sport has increased in recent years.

The 26-year-old Shahzad from Karachi, who became the first Pakistani badminton player to make it to the Olympics last year, is primarily a singles specialist but was forced to play doubles as well in a one-sided affair against impressive India on Friday due to the small team size.

The same applied to her women’s doubles partner, Ghazala Siddique, who also had to pair in mixed doubles. The male team members are Murad Ali and Irfan Saeed Bhatti.

“The other teams have eight players. Here we have to play all games in fours. I’m a singles player but also had to play doubles and mixed doubles. It becomes difficult to focus on one,” said Shahzad PTI after losing 5-0 to India.

Pakistani players are struggling to continue their passion for badminton

Both Shahzad and her doubles partner Siddique have government jobs but that salary isn’t enough to make ends meet. Badminton is a passion for Shahzad, who comes from a family of entrepreneurs, while Siddique works as a gym teacher alongside her government job to support her family of five siblings.

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Shahzad’s long-term goal is to reach the Paris 2024 Olympics, but while she’s been at it for a long time, she feels stuck when it comes to her career.

“It’s very difficult to train in a country like Pakistan. You have to take care of yourself, there are no good coaches, you have to do fitness alone, gymnastics. There is no real training center at home.

“No players come to Pakistan and we don’t play that many international events. So the level is stuck. I personally feel that my game is stuck and I need to train abroad to improve.” Siddiqui, on the other hand, only started playing five years ago and it is already a great honor for her to be part of the national contingent. The 28-year-old, who earns around 13,000 Indian rupees from her government job, cannot put all her energy into the game due to her dual role.

“Cricket is the only sport that is supported. I have to do two jobs because one is not enough to feed the family. I’m the eldest of five siblings, so there’s responsibility too,” said Siddique from Lahore with a wry smile.

Mahoor Shahzad meets PV Sindhu

On Friday, the more experienced Shahzad faced Indian superstar PV Sindhu, who had faced Saina Nehwal in the past. Her favorite player is Tai Tzu-ying from Chinese Taipei.

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“Sindhu came to shake my hand after the game, which was a good gesture. Compared to Saina, Sindhu seems a lot more deceptive. Saina was a lot more aggressive when I played against her,” added Shahzad.

Siddique hasn’t spoken to the Indian players yet, but she already has an Indian boyfriend from her college days in 2017.

“I made friends with an Indian woman during the 2017 World University Games. We spent a lot of time together and she even took care of me when I was down. I will never forget that.”

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