PESHAWAR: A village in the surroundings of the Bacha Khan International Airport in Peshawar, which has produced seven world squash champions, has stopped producing more as it has not been given due importance.
Nawan Killay, located around three kilometres west of the Peshawar Cantonment, has produced all the seven world champions from Pakistan in squash. Five of them were from a single family.
“Hashim Khan, Azam Khan, Roshan Khan, Mohibullah Khan and legendary Jehangir Khan are from one family of the Nawan Killay. The two other great players of the game and the former British champions Jansher Khan and Qamar Zaman were also from this village,” Mohammad Amir, a grandson of the first British Open Champion of Squash Hashim Khan, told The News.
The Khans from the village ruled the world of squash for 27 years between 1951 and 1997. Jansher Khan was the last champion from Nawan Killay, and also Pakistan, who won his last British Open title in 1997 and World Open in 1996.
The family of Khans came into the limelight when Hashim Khan won the British Open in 1951. Hashim continued winning the title for another five years before another member of the family and the father of Jehangir Khan, Roshan Khan, defeated him in the final of the British Open in 1957. Hashim Khan won his seventh British Open title in 1958.
Jehangir Khan, who was rated by many as one of the all-time great sportsmen in the world’s history, is among the seven champions. Jahangir won the British Open title for the record 10 consecutive times, the World Open for six times and remained unbeaten for five years and eight months between 1981 and 1986.
During the time, Jehangir Khan successively won 555 international matches, the longest winning streak by any player in any sport according to the Guinness Book of the World Records.
“The village that has produced such a large number of champions was never given importance by the government and the world. It is a unique record for any small village to have produced the world champions of a sport,” said Amir.
The government of Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan, the then chief minister of the erstwhile NWFP, had announced several development projects for the Nawan Killay after declaring it a model village in 90s. However, the projects could never be executed.
“The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is making efforts to preserve the ancestral home of Indian cinema legend from Peshawar Dilip Kumar but no one ever came forward to preserve the shabby buildings that have produced the people who hoisted the flag of the country all over the world,” said Farmanullah Khalil, a resident of the Nawan Killay.
“Apart from the seven champions and a number of other popular players in squash, Nawan Killay has also produced a number of players in lawn tennis who are performing well at the national level,” said Irfanullah Khan Khalil, a tennis coach from the same village.
Umar Gul, a popular fast bowler of the Pakistan cricket team, also hails from Nawan Killay.
The government has named a road in Nawan Killay after Umar Gul but no building, road, or square has been named after any of the seven champions from the town. The villagers are faced with the problems of loadshedding and scarcity of potable water, educational and health facilities.
Not a single squash court has been established in the town to look for more talent from among a number of youngsters who go to courts in Peshawar cantonment after seeking permission from the authorities. These young players are eyeing nothing but the World and the British Open to revive the old glory of their fellow villagers.