Aisam-Rohan Reach Wimbledon Quarter-Finals: Next Stop, Wagah

Posted on June 28, 2010
Filed Under >Sehar Tariq, Foreign Relations, People, Sports
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Sehar Tariq

Pakistan’s stellarly good-looking tennis champ Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi became the first Pakistani to reach the quarter-finals at Wimbledon when along with his Indian partner Rohan Bopannahe beat Lucas Lacko of Slovakia and Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine in straight sets in the Mens’ Double. Their straight set victory – 7-5, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2- in the Round of 16 now take them to the Mens’ Doubles Quarterfinals, and already place them in the top-8.

It was only two years ago that Aisam – who is Pakistan No. 1 and World No. 43 for Men’s Doubles -  became the first Pakistani to play at Wimbledon since 1976. Since then he has been steadily improving his game, including beating a doubles duo with Roger Federer in it last year. The news report in Dawn points out that “the Pakistani number one and world number 42 is a grass-court specialist and has been improving his performance at the world’s most prestigious tennis tournament in the last few years.”

But Pakistani Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and his doubles partner Rohan Bopanna from India are also attracting a lot of attention for where they come from, and what they are doing together. The unlikely Indo-Pak pair have been playing as one team and they have been sporting tennis jackets that say “Stop War Start Tennis.” Now they have suggested a novel idea of a tennis match played at the Wagah border.

The world is not used to seeing India and Pakistan step onto any field as one team so the unlikely duo have been making headlines. And they are making full and good use of it by promoting the game of Tennis in the cricket dominated subcontinent and spreading the message of peace. Aisam and Rohan met at the age of 16 at a tennis camp and they have been good friends ever since. They are a good example of how friendship can overcome barriers or race, religion and nationality. While their international tennis playing status has allowed them to remain friends and see each other frequently, there are thousands of people on both sides of the border who long and yearn to see the people and places they once loved and knew as home but have been unable to see for over 60 years due to cruel visa regimes and heartless politicians who drive wedges deeper and wider between India and Pakistan for personal gain.

According to a report in the Guardian , the two tennis players want to play a tennis match at Wagah, the border separating India and Pakistan. The border will serve as the net. Aisam will play on the Indian side and Rohan will play on the Pakistani side of the border. I want very much for the two to win the Quarter-Finals at Wimbledon, but maybe even more than that I want to see them playing at Wagah!

The tennis stars are trying to turn this fantastic idea into reality. And at this point in time, I think that is exactly what the two countries need. Their performance at Wimbledon and the recent positive vibes coming from the governments as well as civil society in both India and Pakistan makes this a very good time to pursue this idea.

I don’t know much about tennis but I really want this match to happen! I will go to watch. And I promise to read up everything I can and ask anyone I can to help me understand the game better so I am prepared to watch the war of tennis at the border. And I’m sure a lot of other Pakistanis will too. As will many Indians. We all love a little bit of healthy competition with the Indians!

I don’t know how one goes about organizing a tennis match at an international border. But I wish I knew how to do it. So if any of you have ideas, please help.

I would like to see some Indo-Pak tennis and also some regional peace and good will. And while I watch this match, I will put aside my intensely competitive patriotic feelings and cheer loudly for Rahul Bopanna. So Rohan, you try to make this tennis match happen – and we the 170 million people of Pakistan will cheer you on with all our might!

As both Aisam and Rohan have been saying: Its time to “Stop War Start Tennis!”

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21 responses to “Aisam-Rohan Reach Wimbledon Quarter-Finals: Next Stop, Wagah”

  1. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:

    Aisam Qureshi is a Pakistani and he has put name of Pakistan in the international sports in a positive way. That is a good start. Let us all encourage him. May be one day he will make it to top 5 or 10. But the Aisam-Rohan team-up is for the personal reasons and gains and not for some international peace mission. It is no different than any other business arrangement. And this Wagah thing is pure silly. Same could be said about the T-shirt. It is a self promotional gimmick and stunt. Yes Pakistan and India must enter into peace negotiations and come to a peace agreement for all times. We been making cosmetic gestures for long time now. Singers, dancers, all sort of performers have been going over to the others country. But what have they achieved so far. Nothing. The fact is that there are some fundamental issues between India and Pakistan. Unless those issues are addressed and resolved there will be no peace between the two. Let us start where the starting needs to be done.

  2. Sridhar says:

    Too bad the duo did not win today’s quarter finals, but good show by them in any case.

    Besides the tennis game at the Wagah border, it might be a good idea to build a multi-sport complex where different games are played and watched by people on both sides. The place is close enough to Lahore on the Pakistani side and Amritsar on the Indian side to make it feasible. Also, given cricket’s appeal in the subcontinent, we should not exclude it altogether. Perhaps a cricket stadium at the Wagah border, where not just India-Pakistan but international tournaments are held. Maybe a World Cup final there some day. No harm in dreaming big!

    (and by the way, let’s not name it after politicians, even those who are very high on the respective countries’ pedestals. If we must name it after people, let’s name it after people like Edhi)

  3. Watan Aziz says:

    What a great “toufa”!

    Why stop at tennis?

    “Bantay”, basketball, carrom board, chess, cricket, football, “gudi-bazi”, “guli-danda”, hockey, “kushti”, scrabble, and more?

    And with the food stalls of either side, the food wallas will also compete on the best food and make a buck.

    And each side will bring their own cheerleaders. Best suggestion: “hijras”. They will be unpredictable. Might cajole and/or insult both sides depending on their mood. And I am telling you, losing side will not want to face them. Brutal.

    And we can have our own “field of dreams”! Move over Kevin.

    As someone has pointed out, there is enough land.

    I like it.

    Besides, it will add to the drama of closing day ceremonies. People will feel better. One trip and all the fun for the day. “Picnic at Wagha”.

    And once in a while, we could also allow a “smuggler’s day”. On that day, the smugglers can do it all without having to pay both sides or in the darkness of the night.

    But the one event I will not miss for the world will be who is the best on the Punjabi “gallian”? Naturally, we will send our Wasi Zafar. Now can India do it better? I doubt it. Let them send in their best. No chance for them. Wasi is fluent, has the right body language and well practiced. Naturally, his son will be his second.

    Let the fun begin!

    And I am serious. This will yield much better returns than all the efforts of MOFA.

  4. beena sarwar says:

    Thanks for this great sum-up Adil. Aman ki Asha (hope for peace,, the peace initiative of the Jang Group, where I work, and the Times of India has started a campaign called Milne Do, against visa restrictions. Also we had a fantastic event at Wagah border on Friday when school children from both sides met at the white line between the two gates and tied a symbolic knot of friendship in two chains of peace hankies – one chain got pulled into Pakistan, the other into India. We also had amazing musical performances right at the border. I don’t see why this tennis match can’t happen :)

  5. Sadiq says:

    Very nice topic. I think lots of good things are happening in terms of better relations between India and Pakistan. I just wish the politicians and media on the two sides don’t mess things up again. As long as both countries accept each other and do not interfere in each other’s affairs there is so much we can do together.

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