Enduring Passion for Sports
knew that I was first but didn't know that I had made a new
record in pole vault in the whole of Pakistan breaking all
other previous records. I came to know about it from the newspapers
the next morning." These are words from an ace athlete
who has recently been recognised for his remarkable feats
in sports. Qazi Abdul Alim is not only a legendary athlete
but an expert in the field of physical training and also a
writer. Recently the 70-year-old athlete received a UNESCO
award and holds the title of being the first person to receive
such an accolade in the south-east Asia and Pacific region.
The UNESCO prize created in 2002, is attributed every two
years to reward distinguished services to physical education
the story behind this remarkable personality is a lot more
Born on December 31, 1933, Alim is the son
of Qazi Badri and Mahsuda Begum of Rokonpur in Old Dhaka.
Alim's childhood was rather uneventful, limited to school
and home and of course "a little bit of sports".
He played traditional Bangali games like gollachhut, cockfight,
spoon race, etc. He went to St. Gregory's High School where
he studied from Class I to IV and then moved to Jubilee School
before finally settling in the Collegiate School from where
he did his matriculation. It was after his matriculation that
he decided to build up his career as a sportsman. He did not
like cricket and neither did he have very sweet memories about
his dabbling with football -- he broke his toe twice while
playing the game. So he decided to be an athlete. "My
father was a footballer. So, there was always a sporting environment
in my family. Besides, time does not matter if one is determined
and sincere to one's choice," says Alim about his rather
Alim took admission at Jagannath College.
Besides studies, he started to give more time to sports and
trained hard, following a stringent daily routine. After Fazr
prayers he would run around Bahadur Shah Park a few times
before going to Kabi Nazrul field. After coming back from
college, he went to the Dhaka University field or in some
other field of Old Dhaka. Practice continued until evening.
Before long, his hard work began to produce results.
It was in 1948 when Alim participated in 13
sporting events and became champion in Jagannath College's
annual intra-university sports. The events were 100, 200,
400, 800-metre race, 2 relays, discus throw, shotput, javelin
throw, high jump, long jump, pole vault. The following year
he repeated his feat-- Alim stood champion again in 1949.
He was also the athletic secretary for his two years in the
college. "Weight training is the best exercise for any
athlete and I used to do it on a regular basis," says
a bag full of trophies, Alim got admission into Dhaka University
through the players quota in 1949. After BA he did his post
graduation in two subjects -- International Relations in 1954
and History in 1956. His educational expenses for both the
MA degrees were borne by the university. In 1956 he got an
Asia Foundation scholarship to Oregon University in the US.
It was here that he studied physical and heath education,
thus getting a proper grounding in his field. In addition,
he completed another course on athletic injury and first aid
from that university.
In Dhaka University, Alim practised in the
university gymnasium and regularly cycled. Another place he
was a frequent visitor to was Modhur Canteen, where he used
to have his breakfast. At Dhaka University he soon excelled
in sports events. In 1951 he broke a new record in pole vault
but while pole vault was his expertise, he also made his mark
in the categories of running, high jump, hop, step and jump
in which he became champion in the first year of his university
life. Two years later he further pushed back the categories
of sports he had so far been famous for -- in 1953 he became
champion in gymnastics and boxing. He represented East Pakistan
team as the Captain in the Pakistan games in 1955 (Dhaka)
and 1956 (Lahore). From 1948 to 1956 -- nine years in a row
-- he was East Pakistan's athletic champion. He also captained
the Dhaka University athletic team in 1950.
passion for sports also influenced other family members. His
constant support and inspiration helped three of his sisters
-- Qazi Zaheda, Qazi Nasima and Qazi Shamima -- to enter the
world of sports. He of course took it upon himself to train
them. His efforts didn't go unrewarded -- all three of them
became national and international athletes. All this was happening
in the '50s, a time when the conservative attitude of society
towards women made it extremely difficult for them to even
dream of getting into the sports arena, let alone excel in
it. But Alim's passion and his sisters' interest proved to
be sustaining enough to defy any social disapproval. When
asked how he dared to do so, he revealed that their father
and the family were always supportive of their dreams: "Besides,
I assured my father that I would take care of them."
Alim's stint as a trainer was equally impressive
as he was as he was such a dedicated sportsman. Coming back
from Oregon, he joined as a coach in East Pakistan's athletic
department. He was there for three years from 1958. He was
the coach for East Pakistan in 1962, '66 and '67 Pakistan
games. In 1962, he joined the Agricultural University as physical
education teacher. He created many good athletes there. He
worked there with total dedication and sincerity. Alim was
in this university for almost four years. In 1965, the Pakistan
Government built up a "Dhaka National Sports Training
and Coaching Centre" in Dhaka. Alim was its first director
and worked there for nine years. He founded a library there
and enriched it over the years. The library is still there,
though the name has changed to National Sports Council. He
was the vice-captain for Pakistan in the 9th Edinburgh Commonwealth
1961, Alim got married to Qazi Selima. There was no doubt
that there were many female fans of the handsome 5'-11"
athlete and a charming young man, but for him, Selima was
the only woman in his life. Moreover, he kept all his concentration
on sports. Alim and Selima had three sons. Their elder son
died in 1980.
In 1974, he was appointed the principal of
Dhaka Physical Education College. This gave him the opportunity
to completely change the culture of the college as far as
sports was concerned. At that time, physical education was
rather a neglected field. "Most often I used to be called
PT Sir," says Alim. He worked very hard and spent all
his time and energy throughout his 18-year tenure and changed
the fate of the college. He built a swimming pool and introduced
some new sports in the college. He was also the man to introduce
sports song in the college. Alim also initiated scholarships
abroad for the students of the college. From 1976-78 he was
the general secretary of National Sports Control Board. From
1974-89 he was the president of Physical Teacher's Summit.
He was also the vice-president of Bangladesh Cycling Generation.
1979 Alim got a call from the president. Zia was always in
favour of the development of sports and games all over the
country. One day he called Alim and asked him what could be
done for the development of sports. Alim's proposal was to
establish a national institute of sports like many developed
countries. It was 1979.
He also proposed that physical education should
be made compulsory and that in every educational institution
there should be a physical education teacher. Zia readily
accepted his first proposal and asked Alim to start working
for a national institute of sports. Once he had the government
backing, Alim began his work and the Bangladesh Institute
of Sports (BIS) was established in Savar on 100 acres of land.
He was the first director of this institute and graced the
post for three years. BIS was later turned into Bangladesh
Krira Shikkha Protishthan (BKSP).
is BKSP on the right track and taking our sports forward?
Is Alim happy with the state of BKSP? "No, I am not happy.
Because today BKSP is full of corruption." In 1982 he
joined the Physical Education College again. He retired in
Alim believes that it is important for the
government to be actively involved in helping to identify
and pick athletes from across the country.
is also another more cerebral side to Alim. He has written
some 42 books, 18 of which are on physical education. The
rest are fairy tales, short stories and books on traditional
Bangla proverbs. Thirteen of his books are yet to be published
including his autobiography called Smritikatha. His
first book titled Daud-Jhanp-Nikkhap was published
in 1960. One of his most popular books is Bani Chirontoni.
It had more than 20 editions. He is also the first editor
of sports magazine Krirajagat.
has travelled many countries, sometimes as a sportsman and
sometimes as a sports organiser. In 1956 he went to the US
for higher studies; in 1977 he travelled to Russia as the
leader of a five-member Bangladesh group; he went to Bulgaria
to attend the 5th World University Games as the manager of
Bangladesh athletic group. He went to Delhi to attend the
special general assembly of Olympic Council of Asia in 1991.
In 1994 he went to Hiroshima to participate in the Asian Games
as the deputy chief of the mission. His last foreign tour
was to Athens on 6th December 2004 to receive the most prestigious
award of his life -- the UNESCO Award.
Alim, in fact, has received many awards for
his remarkable achievements. As a top athlete of Dhaka University
he received the gold medal by chancellor WA Zenking. He also
won the national sports award in 1977 for his contribution
to sports, the Qazi Mahbubullah gold medal. For his widespread
contribution in sports he got the "Shadhinota Padak"
total of 49 countries participated in UNESCO Award winning
competition, including Russia, Japan, China, India Australia,
Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Qazi Abdul Alim of Bangladesh won
it. Asked what won him this award, he answered that most participants
were athletes or players only. I was the only one who was
a physical trainer as well as a writer besides being a player.
Here I was different from others." His being a physical
education trainer and a successful athlete and his contribution
to athletics and physical education in the entire sports sector
of Bangladesh were the key factors for the jury to select
him for the award. Alim received a medal and diploma.
"It has been a long journey from 1945-2004,"
says Alim. "It has come late but it has come at last."
Alim in 1971 played the role of a different type of freedom
fighter. From NSC he trained the "Bicchu Bahini".
After training he would give them arms and ask them to "Go
fight for the country". Alim was fluent in Urdu and the
Pak army never suspected him.
has a very cool, quiet and calm personality. He is a little
on the reserved side. Before retiring in 1989, he had been
transferred to Rajshahi Physical Education College, perhaps
for being too principled and strict about rules and regulations.
But the ever youthful Alim still has a lot
to contribute in the field of sports. In terms of developing
a sports culture in this country, people like Alim are invaluable.
Recognising him for his achievements and honouring his vision
is our duty. Whether he gets what is due to him or not, there
is no denying the fact that Qazi Abdul Alim will always be
a distinguished figure for his outstanding performance and
contribution to sports.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004