KARACHI: If you don’t hold a bat and ball in your hand, then there is a high chance that the people in Pakistan will not notice your sporting achievements, or maybe forget them in a matter of days.
Pakistani cueist Muhammad Asif if one of those non-cricketing athletes who have suffered because of this. He won the IBSF World Snooker Championship in 2012 but despite promises of support, he was left to rot in the wilderness.
The world champion time and again demanded attention from the government, he wasn’t asking for anything which he didn’t deserve, but usually, in Pakistan you don’t get what you deserve as an athlete.
However, after spending nearly seven years out of the headlines, even with a few national championship titles and Asian 6-Red titles to his name at that time, Asif came back strongly.
He repeated the 2012 performance in 2019 again, against the world’s best cueists in Ankara, Turkey and brought home another trophy, which he carries around to television studios for interviews, sticking it to his chest as if it means the world to him.
“I won the title for Pakistan God-willing,” Asif told The Express Tribune when asked about how he feels after conquering the world a second time. “I want to thank Allah for blessing me with this title. Whenever we play for Pakistan and are leaving the country, the prayers of the whole nation are with us. And God-willing I won the title there, which makes me really happy.”
The government of Pakistan promises Rs10 million to athletes who win gold medals or the tournaments as a whole for Pakistan, but Asif never received the promised amount when he lifted the silverware back in 2012.
He has won the title again this time to add substance to his case, and when asked what difference he sees after winning the world championship this time around, Asif said: “I have just come back after winning, so I will know in a few days what the difference is. But the positive I have seen is that I have received messages from government officials. Before this, no one even messaged me. I hope that they will give a little attention to snooker and will work for the betterment of it. I can only hope!”
The Faisalabad-born cueists has seen a fair share of problems when he decided to pursue snooker as a career in a cricket-mad country Pakistan, but even after all of that, he wants the youth of the country to pick up the stick.
“Obviously, yes. Snooker is a good game [if you plan to pursue it as a career],” Asif said with a spark in his eyes as if he wanted to assure the future generations that there is life beyond cricket. “You have to be perfect mentally and physically to win a snooker title. A youngster should come into this sport. Also, to improve the sport we will have to work at the domestic and the grassroots level. If we are able to nurture the young players, then in the coming days we will produce more champions.”
Difficult past, better present, but still an unknown future awaits Muhammad Asif, however, he believes anyone who follows his mantra will not fail.
“See, my message is for the new players that they should never be scared of difficulties,” said Asif when asked to give a message for the young athletes of Pakistan. “An individual should face the adversities. Everyone faces difficult times, but the ones who think properly come out of it.
He continued by laying out his success formula in detail. “Whenever you see someone successful, you will see the motivation behind that achievement. One should state a goal for themselves and focus on it through hard work. Bad times do come but it should not affect your practice and focus.”
He also emphasized the importance of having a winning mentality. “We need to change the mindset. We need to work on this too. The practice is one part of it, but to develop a winning mentality is also important. The player should set his focus and plan what he needs to do. If you have a goal, God will also help you in achieving it.”