Off-Court Honour for IndoPak Express

As Reported by Dawn

The two South Asian players who paired up to form a formidable force in men’s doubles tennis have been rewarded for their efforts by the Peace and Sport Organization.

Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and Rohan Bopanna were announced as the winners of ‘Peace and Sport Image of the Year’ award by the World Peace and Sport Forum on Friday.

The award is given to the best image of fraternity through sport or a symbolic moment showing the ability of sport to advance peace in the world and to encourage reconciliation among peoples.

“The Peace and Sport Image of the Year Award will be given to India’s Rohan Bopanna and Pakistan’s Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi – two tennis players who managed to bring the political authorities in their respective countries closer, through their own history of personal friendship and commitment,” a statement issued by Peace and Sport said.

The duo’s ‘Stop War, Start Tennis’ campaign made a breakthrough achievement this year, when they managed to bring together the Pakistani and Indian ambassadors to the United Nations.

Hardeep Singh Puri (India) and Abdullah Hussain Haroon (Pakistan) watched from the stands as the IndoPak Express contested in the men’s doubles semi-finals and final of the US Open 2010 in New York last month.

The winning image, taken by Jay Mandal for the ATP World Tour, shows the two players chatting with the two ambassadors after their semi-final win at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.

Based on worldwide open voting competition and jury’s decision the image was declared the winner, having received 60 per cent of the votes cast globally.

Rohan (Hindu) and Aisam (Muslim) have played in a doubles team for three years and are building their careers together, despite historical hostilities that divide India and Pakistan. Motivated by their friendship, they decided to actively campaign for peace between their two nations.

During several events on the ATP World Tour 2010, they wore warm-up gear displaying the slogan “Stop War, Start Tennis”, thus affirming their belief that friendship between India and Pakistan is possible.

“The message of peace given by Rohan and Aisam is a unique source of inspiration for young people in their respective countries, but its significance does not stop there. They use their charisma and their sporting success to raise awareness amongst the entire international community, their fellow athletes and political authorities in their countries, as we saw at the US Open. I hope that their appeal will lead the way to new rapprochement initiatives,” Joel Bouzou, President and Founder of Peace and Sport said.

“Sport’s greatest victory is not measured in terms of medals. It is measured by its ability to positively change people’s lives and bring them hope. And that’s exactly what Rohan and Aisam succeed in doing. They demonstrate what champions can achieve when they use their celebrity for a good cause.”

The players’ next humanistic goal is to organize a friendly tennis match at the Wagah border, the only checkpoint that exists between India and Pakistan. This symbolic event, supported by Peace and Sport, will incarnate the wish of Indian and Pakistani young people to live in peace.

Other contestants for this year’s award were, “Young Pentathletes bridge the gap between the USA and Cuba,” “Nelson Mandela, hero of the anti-apartheid struggle and symbol of the 2010 World Cup,” and “Iran and the USA forget their differences on a basketball pitch.”

The award will be presented to the duo by Prince Albert II of Monaco at a grand gala ceremony on December 2.

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