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Pakistan’s ancient form of wrestling threatened by ‘obsession for cricket’

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Thu, 2020-12-17 00:12

KARACHI: It’s an ancient form of wrestling that has existed in the regions that make up present-day Pakistan and India for the past 5,000 years.

On Tuesday, however, only a few hundred people gathered at Karachi’s Mohammadan football stadium to watch wrestlers from across Pakistan’s southern Sindh province battle it out for the final Malakhra match of the season.

Malakhra matches, often also held in Iran and Afghanistan, began in 1978 in Karachi, said Gul Sher Sheedi, a 61-year-old former wrestler who supervised Tuesday’s match, lamenting that the game “received little attention in the cricket-obsessed city and country.” 

“While cricket gets full official attention, many local sports, especially Malakhra, are deprived of government patronage,” Sheedi said. “When the government pays attention, a sport is highlighted and gets sponsors.”

“The wrestlers of Malakhra remain poor despite giving their all to the game,” he said.

A Malakhra match starts with both wrestlers tying a twisted cloth around the opponent’s waist and then trying to throw the contender to the ground. 

The game spans three days, with three wrestlers ultimately bagging the first, second and third prize after a finale.

“The tournament is being held on the occasion of the anniversary of the death of Hazrat Syed Mahmood Shah,” Sheedi said, referring to a local saint.

Khairuddin alias Talib, who defeated his opponent Tedi Sheedi, said that the three winners would get cash prizes but the other contestants would go home with “nothing.” 

“We entertain people; we have kept this old game alive. But what do we get?” he said. “We get nothing, neither money; nor the limelight,” he said.

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