Pakistan boxer Zohaib reveals reason behind ditching country before Paris Olympics Qualifiers

“I still don’t know how it happened,” Zohaib told The News

July 08, 2024
In this photo Pakistan’s sole Olympics boxing hope Zohaib Rasheed can be seen victorious after a fight. — PSB/File

LAHORE: Pakistan’s premier boxer Zohaib Rasheed, who vanished in Italy just before kick-off of the Paris Olympics boxing qualifying event a few months ago, has said that the unprecedentedly tough financial issues forced him to take this unwanted step of ditching the country for seeking greener pastures in Europe.

“I still don’t know how it happened,” Zohaib told The News from an undisclosed location in Europe.

“You know there is no future of boxing in Pakistan. It really hurts me when I recall that my whole boxing career finished within no time. The thing is that you need facilities and incentives to pursue a career and these were not there back home. With an empty pocket how can a boxer grow,” questioned Zohaib, who was Pakistan’s main hope in the qualifying round.

“You know it was not easy to do. Things build with time and eventually compel you to take tough steps for your future and your children’s future. I used to meet mostly my boxing expenses from my own pocket. You saw in Lahore the condition of the boxing camp for the Olympics Qualifiers. It was a club level camp with no facilities. Even we used to contribute for purchasing milk and other food items when there was need. Although I admit that the authorities used to return us that money which they used to get from us in emergency,” Zohaib revealed.

“There were even no punching bags in the camp and we used to go to various clubs to do our training. How can you prepare for Olympics in such a situation?” Zohaib questioned.

“It gives me a lot of pain when I recall that such issues forced me to take the step and leave boxing. Boxing is now just a dream for me as it is finished now,” said Zohaib, who won bronze in both the Asian Senior and Under-22 Championships.

“I used to get Rs 35,000 in terms of salary from my department. I ask you how you can manage your expenses in this sort of amount. It is impossible,” Zohaib said.

“When I was playing I could not speak to media to highlight our vows because we could face action,” he said.

Asked if he aims to play professional boxing on getting a legal document of any country in Europe, Zohaib said he has no such intent.

“I have no such intent. In Pakistan too there is no professional boxing and there is only frustration. The entire sport is on decline and boxing is in the worst state,” Zohaib said.

He rubbished the media reports that he had stolen pounds of a female boxer of Pakistan from her bag before leaving the team hotel.

“It is absolutely rubbish. There was no such thing. I just picked up my passport and went out of the hotel. It shocked me a lot when I heard about this news through social media. I could respond but I did not and through your paper I clarify that I have not stolen any money before leaving the hotel,” Zohaib said.

Zohaib said that it’s not easy for him to be no longer in the sport when his entire family is associated with boxing.

“It’s agonising that my boxing career is over. I was really frustrated as we used to travel through our own expenses and there was no decent incentive which could motivate us to stick to the game,” Zohaib signed off.

The trend of ditching the country among Pakistan’s sportsmen has increased over the years. Zohaib’s case was the fourth in the last two years.

Alam Zeb Safi is a senior reporter for The News