On Monday morning, when the world woke up to the news of Pakistan’s javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem winning a historic silver at the world championships in Budapest, Muhammad Ashraf was preparing to start his day as a mason in the town of Mian Channu in the country’s Khanewal district.
The father of seven still lives with his family in a three-room abode in the town and everyone stayed up late to watch Nadeem compete in the final in the Worlds.
“Sade pind da ek ek banda Arshad nu TV te dekh raha si. Sareya nu pata si ki savere kam te jana hai par duniya de level te apne puttar nu medal jeetan da mauka kise kise nu milda hai (Our whole village was watching Arshad compete last night. Almost everybody knew that they had to go to work in the morning, including me, but I didn’t want to miss the chance to see my son win a medal at the world level),” Ashraf tells The Indian Express on phone from Mian Channu.
“He has done the village as well as Pakistan and the Asian continent proud. All his brothers and sisters were cheering when he won the medal. India da munda gold jeetya te Arshad hamesha ohre bare gal karda hai. (A boy from India has won the gold. Arshad often talks about him whenever he is at home),” says the proud father.
A young Arshad would often watch villagers compete in nejabazi (tent pegging) in and around his village. The youngster would also play tape-ball cricket for some time before he took to the javelin.
Last year, he won the gold at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games with a throw of 90.18m. Post that, he competed in two tournaments before suffering elbow and shoulder injuries.
“When he was at home during the injury, he would talk about javelin and the similarities between tent pegging and javelin. He would tell us that it’s as precise as tent pegging and the right angle and velocity has to be achieved in javelin too. He would often watch YouTube videos and we would see the Indian boy on his mobile phone,” says the father.
“We have seen days when I would earn 300-400 rupees a day and I had to support nine beings at home. But we made sure that Arshad and his siblings got milk and ghee. Even now, when he returns to the village after winning a Worlds medal, he will ask for a glass of milk and dishes made of desi ghee.”
After the Commonwealth Games gold medal, Arshad received a cash prize of Rs 50 lakh from the Pakistani government. Ashraf, who was doing masonry on Monday afternoon when this newspaper called him, sees the cash prizes as stepping stones in Arshad’s dreams of winning an Olympic medal for Pakistan.
“Prior to the Worlds, he suffered a knee injury. When he was at home, his knee was taped up most of the time. Last year, when he was given the cash award, he had said that seeing Pakistan’s flag on the podium was his dream and he is realising that dream. I know he will now aim for a medal at the Olympics next year and Inshallah he will win it for Pakistan,” Ashraf adds.