In what can best be described as an honour for the country, a junior squash player Laiba Ijaz Ahmad hailing from Peshawar will represent Pakistan in the US Junior Open Squash Championship to be held from December 15 to 18 in Boston, Massachusetts.
At least 9,000 players from all over the world compete to qualify for the competition and reach to the matches in the US. Laiba, a brilliant pre-medical student has already made her mark in the squash court both within the country and abroad and is eyeing the US Open Junior Squash Championship title.
Daughter of a journalist, she belongs to a sports-oriented-family where her brothers and sister actively participate in sports activities. The mother keenly encourages and supports her children in their sports pursuits and can been seen accompanying them at the racing track, squash courts or gymnasium traveling with Laiba abroad also.
Liaba has to her credit of being the number 1 top ranking player in U-13 championship and has also clinched a title in U-15 championships. She has won two gold medals in Quaid-i-Azam Games in 2018.
She was honoured by former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and awarded her Rs0.1m and a trophy. Her mother describes her as a brilliant student in studies and someone who wholeheartedly helps in household chores. She dispelled the impression that sport players are less educated, avoiding domestic work but Laiba helps even by ironing her brothers’ clothes and tutoring her younger sibling.
She has won some 52 events in her young career and hopes to bag international Junior U-15 championship this month. She is among the 22 girls who actively takes part on a self-help basis at the squash academy in Peshawar supported by former world champion Qamar Zaman Khan, who without government support offers his services to the female squash players of the province.
Journalist and a member of the senior sports writers association Ijaz Ahmed told The Express Tribune that as a media person and with limited resources, he had invested in his four children’s sports pursuits.
“My eldest son is a national athlete and student of University of Engineering at Civil Technology, while Liaba is a medical student and an outstanding squash player.
“My other two children are under the age of ten and keen in squash and cricket and I believe investing in them through sports will teach them to be better citizens and good human beings through sports,” Ijaz said.
A squash racket costs us Rs27,000 shoes Rs16,000 and squash balls Rs3,000, and with limited resources we are struggling not only with Liaba, but with all four kids to keep them in sports, he added.
“Discipline, competiveness, tolerance and the spirit to excel in challenging fields comes through sports to make our children better human beings and we should promote sports as much as possible. Ahmad added
He also lamented that cash prizes in sporting events were too nominal and disclosed to The Express Tribune that Liaba had won a tournament in Karachi and the cash prize was Rs10.000 whereas my expenses incurred on her for the competition was over Rs50,000.
He appreciated the initiative of the K-P government for introducing sports scholarships and expressed his gratitude to DG sports Junaid Khan, president squash federation, and vice president for their interest in sports in K-P.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 11th, 2018.