Aabid Hameed, a 15-year-old Kashmiri, was the shining light at the recently concluded World Kickboxing Championship in Argentina when he became the lone gold medal winner (junior category, 55 kg) for India. Aabid was a part of the nine-member Indian contingent which went to the South-American country for the Championship. The other eight returned with silver medals. Among them was Aabiroo Bashir – the only female member of the contingent who also participated in the 55kg category (junior women’s). A total of forty countries had participated in the event and India finished 23rd in the standings. The medal-winning contingent arrived in New Delhi on Wednesday afternoon.
Hailing from a humble background of Budgam district in Srinagar where his father is a labourer and mother a housewife, Aabid gained recognition when he bagged the gold at the state level (2017) and then in the Nationals (2018). It was his achievement at the national level that secured an entry to the World Championships. Reflecting on his journey to Argentina, Aabid spoke to IndianExpress.com and revealed how hard work and passion helped him achieve this goal. “When I began kickboxing there was hardly any support. My family was not keen on it as well. But that did not deter me and I used to run away from home and practice in the neighbouring village of Soibugh. There I met my coach (Basheer Ahmed) who then taught me in his club,” said Hameed.
“But it wasn’t easy. There were around 30 students in the club and at one point we had to manage with two pairs of gloves and three pads,” he added.
When the curfew was imposed last year it became impossible to go to the club. So hiding and gliding through the alleys near his home, Aabid would sneak past the patrolling Army to a nearby ground in another village to practice. “These are the risks you need to take if you want to pursue at the highest level,” said Hameed.
Aabid had a successful run in the championship and bagged gold by defeating his opponent Santos Vitor from Portugal in a closely fought final.
On the other hand, Aabiroo Bashir, a class IX student from Bandipora, began her tryst with kickboxing in 2017 and quickly rose through the ranks when she joined a local academy. “The first time I learned about kickboxing was when I was with my father took me to a club where I saw young boys and girls training. I told my parents that I want to join them and they were supportive of it,” said Bashir. Being the only female athlete to win a medal for India this year, Aabiroo knows it is no mean feat and believes that her achievements can inspire a lot like others. “I hope my medal serves an inspiration. Last year Tajamul won gold, this year it is me. Young girls in this country and my state must know that impossible is nothing,” she added.
Kickboxing gaining prominence Kashmir
Out of the nine-member Indian contingent which went to Argentina for World Kickboxing Championship, four hail from Kashmir. The quartet went on to secure a podium finish. So what is it about kickboxing that is attracting the youth in Kashmir? Irshad Ahmed, a 26-year-old from Bandipura, who is the sports teacher at Army Goodwill School and a member of the Indian contingent that went to Argentina says that kickboxing offers a chance for youngsters in Kashmir to come out and do something meaningful in their lives.
“There have been lots of Kashmiri athletes in recent years competing in international games both in Asia and in the rest of the world, and they’ve racked up the awards,” said Ahmed.
Irshad also mentioned the importance of sports clubs and trainers and said, “There is a lot of talent in Kashmir. Young boys and girls are now dreaming of making it to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). The Indian Army helps in sponsorships. Kickboxing Federation of India (KFI) is also guiding them with everything that they need. There is no reason why one cannot reach the level of UFC. But for that to turn into reality, what we need are facilities – there is a genuine lack of practice grounds, equipment among other problems. If that gets solved you may soon see one of us in UFC,” said Ahmed. “I would love to represent India in UFC,” quipped Aabid at the idea.
In 2016, Tajamul Islam became the youngest girl from Kashmir to bag the yellow metal for India at the age of seven. As a class II student, she was the youngest contestant of the Indian contingent in the world kickboxing championship in Italy.