My biggest dream is winning an Olympic gold medal for Pakistan: Saadi Abbas

Saadi Abbas Jalbani is a karate champion and captain of the national karate team. In 2011, he became the first-ever Asian Champion from South Asia. 

He was born in Lyari and started karate in 1996 when he was eight years old.  Saadi earned a black belt in karate in April 2001. In 2018, he became the captain of Pakistan National Karate Team.

He is the only athlete from South Asia who has won a gold medal at an Asian Karate Championship. MM News spoke to him on his journey toward being a world champion.

MM News: When did you develop an interest in Karate and who is your idol?

Saadi Abbas: I did not develop an interest in Karate myself. My father was inspired by Bruce Lee. He wanted one of his sons to perform martial arts like him. I was aged only eight when I started practicing karate. Film star and martial artist Bruce Lee was my father’s idol.

MM News: What obstacles did you face on the journey to becoming a karate champion?

Saadi Abbas: The journey was not easy for a normal kid like me. I started karate as a hobby and then as an extra-curricular activity along with my education. This has continued ever since and I learned a wide range of moves and styles in the karate club and was mentored by many people.

When I earned a brown belt, I decided to quit karate but my family insisted I should get a black belt. There was another young man in our club who had a black belt. I knew I could be better than him and continued on earn a black belt.

I become that first athlete in Sindh to earn a gold medal in karate. Volumes can be written on the problems that I faced as no sport other than cricket has importance in the country. I overcame those challenges and became successful.

MM News: Despite earning several accolades, what is the one dream that has remained unfulfilled?

Saadi Abbas: I earned all accolades and laurels for Pakistan which includes South Asian Games, Commonwealth and Islamic Games. I do not have the World Title, which is an unfulfilled dream. I have long desired to earn a gold medal at the Olympics which will be first for an individual Pakistani athlete.

MM News: How does it feel to belong to an area such as Lyari and gain fame worldwide?

Saadi Abbas: I am not the first one from Lyari who earned fame around the world. There have other bigger names before me.  From Hussain Shah to Jan Muhammad, several players have earned medals for Pakistan. I am proud that my name is among them. Lyari is a hidden gem. The government should unearth the hidden talent over there. The people of Lyari can make the nation proud when given the opportunity.

MM News: How does it feel to become the first karate champion in South Asia?

Saadi Abbas: I am the first athlete from South Asia to win a gold medal at the Asian Karate Championship. This is a huge achievement for South Asia and many countries have congratulated me. I have received immense respect which you cannot get with any amount of wealth.

MM News: What does the government not given karate the same attention as other sports?

Saadi Abbas: It is unfortunate that sports have not even given the status of an industry even it can earn revenue for the entire country. In many countries such as United States and Canada, sports are a billion-dollar industry and have a huge role in the development of the nation.

In Pakistan, we have our entire focus on cricket and think it is the only sport. Even our national sport hockey is being neglected. The government’s policies are present but are not being implemented. All stakeholders need to form a strategy as sports can improve Pakistan’s image around the world.

MM News: How did it feel to be neglected despite being a karate champion?

Saadi Abbas: The financial condition of athletes is not good and they look towards the government for support. I am asked by youngsters what the government has given me but I cannot answer them. If I tell them I was neglected and sidelined, they will lose their courage and self-esteem and will not be able to work with enthusiasm.

No one has more medals in karate and martial arts than me but I have never received any presidential award.  I have been nominated several times but do have the family background or influence to receive such awards. Still, I am proud to have represented Pakistan.

MM News: What steps should be taken for promotion of sport and supporting athletes?

Saadi Abbas: The government’s policies should be implemented in a free and fair manner so that we know out projects for the future. We need a strategy for major events like the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and Olympics.

In Pakistan, funds are withheld for political reasons and sports are shut down. We need to bring professionals to make new strategies. In 2004, a Pakistani athlete won a gold medal in the SAF Games in Islamabad but only received one million. I won the gold medal in Asia Games but got only Rs200,000. If you support athletes, they will make the nation proud.

MM News: What message would you give to other upcoming players?

Saadi Abbas: I would advise them to come with full dedication and consult others before entering sports. Talk to your parents, elders and those who inspire and support you.  You need to start working hard from an early age and then only will your dream will be fulfilled.

You also need to maintain a balance between sports and studies. You will be successful in one field and will h have something to fall back on. Get advice from others, thank those who support you and learn to take criticism. Always have a plan and work towards it and you will get the desired results.

MM News: What are future plans and how will you achieve them?

Saadi Abbas: My plan is to start various sports activities starting from karate. I will try to give the next generation what I could not have. I want to set up an organisation that looks at a child’s sporting skills. We have separated sports from science and have been stuck back in time. The nation has tremendous talent which is not being utilised. This can help even earn more accolades for the country.

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