KARACHI: Diehard Peshawar Zalmi fan and wheelchair athlete Amjad Ali finally got the wish that had been eluding him for five years on Friday, when he was invited to attend the Peshawar-Quetta cricket match for the Pakistan Super League (PSL), after an Arab News story featuring him made waves on social media a day earlier.
Ali was born in Shangla, a hilly district in northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and now lives in a sprawling slum neighborhood in the seaside metropolis of Karachi. He was only a year old when he contracted polio and has never walked.
But disability did not dampen Ali’s dream to become a sportsman: he is now Pakistan no. 4 in wheelchair tennis and a national-level player of wheelchair cricket, basketball and handball. He also works as an accountant at a school during the day and teaches neighborhood children in the evenings.
“I didn’t know that my dream would come true,” Ali told Arab News from the cricket stadium on Friday. “I got a call from district administration that they had got a ticket in the VIP stand for me on the directions of chief minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, and they would take me to the stadium,” he said.
“Just look! My wish is fulfilled. I watched the match and met Javed Afridi,” he added, referring to the owner of the Peshawar Zalmi franchise.
Ali was in for a bonus treat as Peshawar ran Quetta down in a record runs chase of 199 in 20 overs, emerging victorious.
“I am very happy that my favorite team won, and I watched all this happening live in the stadium. I’m thankful to Arab News for the story, the Chief Minister for taking me to the stadium and Zalmi owner Javed Afridi for meeting me,” Ali told Arab News after the match.
The inaugural national cricket league, PSL, was launched in 2016 and has been a spectacular success in the country, even though many matches in the first five editions were played in the UAE due to security risks, preventing fans like Ali from attending.
Last year however, all matches of the series were played in Pakistan for the first time, and an overjoyed Ali bought a ticket to see Peshawar play against the Multan Sultans. But he never made it to the stadium on March 13: the coronavirus pandemic broke out in February and lockdown restrictions were imposed, including a ban on spectators at stadiums.
This year again, Ali told Arab News on Thursday, with only 50 percent spectator capacity allowed at stadiums due to the coronavirus, getting his hands on a ticket was no easy task.
But when his story came out to the world, it changed things.
“This was an unforgettable moment. I can never forget it. The way they achieved this target and Wahab Riaz and Haider Ali batted was a treat to watch,” an overjoyed Ali told Arab News after the match.
A meeting with players was not immediately possible due to the Pakistan Cricket Board’s rules which don’t allow anyone to meet with the team, which is in a bio-secure bubble.
“But Javed Afridi told me that my wish to meet players will also be fulfilled soon after the coronavirus ends,” Ali said.