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July 31, 2020

Aisam makes startling claims of fixing approaches


July 31, 2020

LAHORE: Pakistan’s tennis ace Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi has made startling claims that he was offered to fix matches on several occasion but he turned down every such offer.

In an interview with ‘The News’ here on Thursday, he said such things keep happening and fixers try their best but soon they realise who is for sale. “When I was playing as a junior, I was offered English citizenship, but my goal was to raise the green crescent flag. I still play tennis for this purpose. Citizenship of England could have been financially beneficial but love, respect and affection like Pakistan could not be found anywhere in the world. I am proud to be Pakistani,” he said.

Aisam said that for the sake of the country’s honor, he always tried to play tennis in a clean manner. “The honour of the country is most important to me,” he said.

He further revealed that through a Talent Hunt programme, 16 boys and girls from four major cities of the country have been selected for a year-long coaching and training plan. “I will send the best players to America or Europe so that they have a chance to play the best tennis. I will bear all the expenses of this camp,” he added.

This, he said, is an effort for Aisam-ul-Haq Tennis Academy, which he has discussed with the government officials several times. “My demand is only for land. If the government provides land for the academy, a world-class tennis academy can be established. I will again make a request after meeting Prime Minister Imran Khan. I will talk to Shoaib Malik and try to persuade Sania Mirza to play an exhibition match in Pakistan. Many people in Pakistan want to see her play tennis,” he added.

He further stated that he can still play for a few years. “I want to win a grand slam for Pakistan,” he said.

He said it was not necessary to enter politics to work for a cause. “The country can be served even without entering politics,” he said.

“These days I am running a campaign to help the weak, the poor through my foundation. A large number of people have been infected with the coronavirus. I am raising funds, meeting businessmen, influential families, big institutions, knocking on every door because the people of my country need me. I see very difficult life of people in the country. From a five-minute drive from Model Town are homes of people who don’t even have a meal a day,” he said.

“It is very sad to see the condition of the people who are living such a difficult life. We have no idea because three meals a day arrive at our table.

“The world is very different when you go out, the coronavirus has affected the common man a lot. So many talented people are unemployed.

“Transparency is the key in my project. I send all the details to the donors. Servis bought Roger Federer’s shoes for 3 million, Spain’s Tennis Academy bought Rafael Nadal’s shirt for 10,000 euros with which 1300 families were aided. My Foundation has also worked on projects to help people affected by war or natural disasters in Afghanistan, Rwanda, Uganda and Cambodia.

“The 1.8 million prize money from the Islamic Games was donated to the flood victims. I will continue to help people who are vulnerable to the coronavirus even after the situation returns to normal. Because many people need us even after a few businesses have opened,” he said.

He further said that he enjoyed pairing up with Rohan Bopanna. “We played for four years. During that time I played my first doubles ATP and Masters series title and Grand Slam doubles final. We’re both good friends even off the tennis court,” he said.

He said: “I have beaten the best players in the world, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. I could have got financial benefit by taking citizenship of England or any other country but I could not get love and respect like Pakistan.

“I want to create facilities for the new tennis players so that other players like me, Aqeel Khan can make the country proud.”