Posts Tagged ‘ Stop War! Start Tennis! ’

Indo-Pak Express: Chugging for Peace

Originally posted on Aman Ki Asha

The unique tennis doubles team, Pakistani Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and Indian Rohan Bopanna popularly known as ‘Indo-Pak Express’ have urged their governments to allow tennis matches across the border.

There is growing support for their symbolic event – the Stop War Start Tennis campaign. Both players want a match organised between the two countries, but with a twist. They want the match to be held with a net strung across Wagah border. Now that would be a great feat.

The duo are hopeful that their doubles partnership will improve bitter relations between their countries, particularly since the initiative is now backed by the world tennis body and an international peace group.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has thrown its support behind the scheme, along with Peace and Sport, a non-governmental organisation run by Prince Albert of Monaco.

“A lot of good things have been achieved, the ITF is now supporting this, Peace and Sport is also supporting this,” Qureshi, who is also Aman ki Asha Ambassador, has said. “The letters have gone to both the prime minister and president of both countries.

“It is a political issue and there are a lot of security concerns, so we are just hoping that the governments will give us the green light so we can play that match on the border.”

Both players, who were finalists at last year’s US Open and gave their opponents, the top-seeded Bryan brothers tough competition, are confident of a positive response from their respective governments.

“Things are going in the right direction,” Qureshi said.
“Last year, at the US Open, both the UN Ambassadors for Pakistan and India came and watched our matches, which was a huge thing and they are supporting the cause as well.
“Things are going in the right direction; we just have to keep playing our matches and get more and more publicity on the bigger occasions. Hopefully it will happen this year.”
– Aman Ki Asha

Hero’s Welcome for Aisam

By Umar Farooq for The Express Tribune

LAHORE: Aisamul Haq Qureshi returned home to a hero’s welcome with thousands of fans greeting him at Lahore airport to catch a glimpse of the Pakistan tennis sensation.

Aisam, who reached the finals of the US Open men’s doubles and mixed doubles events, became the first player from his country to achieve the feat.

“I feel like a winner,” said Aisam, who partnered Indian player Rohan Bopanna. “I might not have won the US Open title but the reception here has made me feel like I won the Grand Slam event.”

Though the Pakistan-India pair went down against top-seeds Mike and Bob Bryan 7-6, 7-6, Aisam won the hearts of millions of fans through a moving speech at the closing ceremony, acting as an ambassador of peace on behalf of the country. The 30-year-old also climbed to a career-best number six in the ATP Doubles  team World Rankings.

“Following the recent success, I am now eying the number one spot in the doubles rankings,” said Aisam, whose welcome was held in collaboration with the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) and the Punjab Lawn Tennis Association.

Meanwhile, partner Bopanna was happy with the success and admitted a lot of hard work went into the win.

“This entire year was a transition period for us. We started thinking seriously about doubles, put our heads and our games together and started getting good results,” said Bopanna to The Hindu. “We were combining well and knew it was only a matter of time that comfort with each other would translate into wins.”

However, Bopanna, 30, admitted that he was nervous about playing the doubles final.

“It was a huge moment for me to play the final at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Aisam had already played the mixed doubles final there, so I was the nervous one. But as soon as I hit the first ball, everything was fine.”

A new source of inspiration

The PTF has hailed Aisam’s success and termed the 30-year-old as a ‘source of inspiration for the youth of the country’.

“He indeed is the new hero of Pakistan and I am proud of him,” said the PTF President Dilawar Abbas. “His performance and achievement is remarkable and appreciated by all Pakistanis.

“I believe sportsmen are the best ambassadors of peace and goodwill and Aisam’s gesture in the ceremony has won many hearts.

“It not only helps the country but this will boost the scope of sports in the country.

“What Aisam said in the ceremony was enough for the government to take a cue from,” said Abbas.

Aisam’s mother, a former national tennis champion, and his sister Shiza Qureshi, also a tennis player, were proud of Aisam’s achievements.

“He is a winner for us,” said Nosheen Ahtisham. “Winning and losing is part of the game. But to reach this far is impressive enough. The pair competed well throughout the match and it was touch and go in the end.”

Qureshi Uses U.S. Open Platform to Call For Understanding

By Matt Majendie for Reuters

Pakistan’s Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi used the platform of the U.S. Open to deliver a message of peace on the eve of the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington.

Qureshi lost in Friday’s men’s doubles final alongside India’s Rohan Bopanna, the other half of a unique partnership nicknamed the “Indo-Pak Express.”

In his on-court after-match speech, Qureshi said: “I feel there’s a very wrong perception of Pakistan as a terrorist country.

“We are a very peace-loving country and we want peace as much as you.”

Peace has very much been the message of Bopanna and Qureshi since their doubles partnership began with them sporting “Stop War, Start Tennis” sweatshirts in a bid to improve relations between their two countries.

Qureshi delved further into the message he was trying to get across at Arthur Ashe Stadium after the 7-6 7-6 defeat to Americans Bob and Mike Bryan.

“Since September 11, every time I come to the States or Western countries, I feel people have the wrong impression about Pakistan as a terrorist nation,” he said.

“There are extremists I think in every religion but, just because of them, you can’t judge the whole country as a terrorist nation.

“I just want to get this message across as a Pakistani.”

Qureshi said he vividly recalled the moment of the 2001 attacks in New York, which resulted in the deaths of nearly 3,000 people.

An up-and-coming tennis player at the time, he had been at a training camp in Holland when he saw events unfold at the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan.

“It was strange but I was going through the channels and I actually thought it was a movie or something,” he recalled. “I switched the channel again and then felt like it was the same movie on a different channel.

“I was kind of confused. Everything was mostly in Dutch so I couldn’t really understand. Then I actually realized what had happened. It was a very shocking moment.”

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

By Sehar Tariq for All Things Pakistan

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 Border Crossing!

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!”

Indian and Pakistani Players Join Forces to Promote Peace Through Wimbledon

Valerie Amant for Peace-Support.org

Lotto spokesmen Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, Indian and Pakistani respectively, have decided to join forces as a doubles team at Wimbledon to help promote peace.

The two players, along with Peace and Sport, the Monaco-based and neutral international organization that works towards bringing together divided communities worldwide by encouraging dialogue and reconciliation through sport, have decided to team up at this prestigious sporting event, in order to help maintain and promote peace in their neighbouring countries.

Together with their technical supplier, Lotto Sport Italia, Bopanna and Qureshi have decided to promote this initiative by designing specially made t-shirts and sweatshirts with the high impact slogan “Stop War, Start Tennis”. The t-shirt will be worn during training sessions, whilst the sweatshirt will be used when entering the court before play.

Rohan, currently ranked 54th doubles player in the world, and Aisam, currently ranked 46th, have been friends for over ten years and have teamed up successfully for the last three years. Their respective countries have lived in a situation of unease and tension in the region of Kashmir since it won its independence from the British Empire in 1947. Peace and Sport would like to emphasise how much sport unites, as highlighted by the two players’ partnership.

The two tennis stars took the initiative to promote peace through sport after having noticed that communities from both countries forget hostility when they support them in international competitions. Indeed, during the first ATP tournament in Mumbai in 2007, Pakistani flags were waved inside the stadium during the final.

With the message “Stop War! Start Tennis!” Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi remind us that sport is a universal language that facilitates dialogue, going beyond political, racial, religious, ethnical and social differences.

Joël Bouzou, President and Founder of Peace and Sport, said: « Rohan and Aisam are big stars in their respective countries. Their story of friendship through sport is a real inspiration for youngsters. By transmitting a message of peace, they hope to change the mentalities and attitudes in India and Pakistan as well as other areas of the world destabilized by conflict. We are extremely proud to support this message that will benefit from the extensive publicity that Wimbledon attracts.

Alberto Fraticelli Marketing & Communications Director, from Lotto Sport Italia adds : « It is with great pleasure and good will that we decided to develop this initiative, in fact we already support “FreeFromLaces”, the movement that through blogs, forums, social networks, music and video, collects and proposes to the entire web community content and ideas that invite the user to reflect and ponder on “laces” that limit our daily routine: those personal, mental, virtual, social, cultural and physical ties that often seem impossible to untie. Through their initiative and personal backgrounds, Aisam et Rohan are perfect incarnations of this philosophy; thanks to sport we can rise above the hate and prejudice that condemns mankind to perpetual conflict, and we are extremely proud to have international representation of our brand, through players like Rohan and Aisam.”

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