- 0% FURIOUS
- 0% BORED
- 0% SAD
Ever since rumors that the Maharaja of Kashmir was for a union with India in 1947, the tensions between Pakistan and India have been befitting the Montagues and the Capulets.
Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and Rohan Bopanna hope to use tennis as their archetypical path to peace. Qureshi, of Pakistan, and Bopanna, of India, have known each other from the age of 16 and have been doubles partners since 2003.
Dubbing themselves the Indo-Pak Express, they have teamed up with several organizations to raise funds for the 2010 flood of Pakistan, and peace organizations, namely Peace and Sport. Their partnership has received amplified awareness this year due to the duo making the finals of the US Open Men’s Doubles, coming up short however to Bob and Mike Bryan of the US.
Considering the conflict between the players’ respective countries, it is considered surprising to some that they were able to work together and reach success. Nevertheless, they have, while using their platform to protest the intolerance back home and in America. “It is the beauty of sport that it’s above culture, politics and religion. So by pairing together through our tennis, we are trying to give a message of peace to people of India and Pakistan.”
Qureshi’s statements ring true. Even the United Nations ambassadors have chimed in by their actions when they sat together and watched ‘Indo-Pak Express’ play in the Finals and then subsequently draping the shoulders of the Bryan Brothers with 5,000 year old ceremonial cloths.
The Pakistani ambassador, Abdullah H Haroon said “Sports will always play a certain role. No matter how you look at it, this is bound improve things. Because this is people to people, this is not governments to governments…”
This isn’t the first time Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi has used his partner to make a statement; in 2002 he teamed with Israeli player Amir Haddad for Wimbledon and the US Open tournament. The duo won the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the year award for courage for playing together regardless of the negative reaction of their respective countries. Qureshi’s and his current partner, Rohan Bopanna, have made even more waves.
After their stunning US Open run, Qureshi gave a stirring and heartwarming post match speech. He ended it by saying that there is “…a bad perception that Pakistan is a terrorist nation. We’re a friendly, loving, caring people. We want peace in this world as much as you guys. May Allah bless us all.”
On the eve of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, in New York, on the backdrop of a roaring debate upon rather a Mosque should be built near Ground Zero, his words were wholly needed. Many in attendance were choked up by his expression of peace while more were moved to action, including the Bryan Brothers.
The Bryans, arguably one of tennis’ most dominant doubles tandems in history, have already stated their intent to donate a portion of their US Open winnings and to donate money through their foundation to help victims of flooding in Pakistan. It has also recently been announced that they will again compete against Qureshi and Bopanna at a charity event in Dubai during the month of December to assist the flood-affected people. There are currently rumors suggesting that #3 ranked Roger Federer, who resides in Dubai, will also be contacted to compete.
2010 has been a great year for Qureshi and Bopanna on and off the court. India’s ambassador, Hardeep Puri, puts it best “It’s the message it sends that India and Pakistan are playing on the same side. The core message that comes through is that you cannot allow relations between two countries to be held hostage by actions of a few. A large majority wants peace, want tranquility. They want to live together and get along with their daily lives.” With Qureshi and Bopanna at the forefront, the peace that he hopes for may not be very far off.