Pak fighters can qualify for 2028 Olympics: judo coach

Alam Zeb Safi
Sunday, Oct 02, 2022

KARACHI: Pakistan’s Iranian judo coach Sajjad Kazemi has said if he is given a long-term opportunity to work with the national fighters then he will ensure that three fighters will make it to the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

“Yes, if I were given a chance to work with the Pakistani fighters for a long time then I am sure that three home-grown fighters will make it to the 2028 Olympic Games,” Sajjad told ‘The News’ in an interview from Islamabad.

“But one thing you should remember that my plans will need to be fully implemented by the authorities concerned,” he added.

“There is no short cut in judo. Judo is not a game like squash and cricket. Here you need a proper plan, mental attitude and top level exposure. In case of Pakistan our fighters need at least two international events in a month if there are to grow,” Sajjad said.

“The participation in events will let you know as a coach where your fighter stands and you work on his weak areas and bring him at par with the international standard. Pakistan has good talent but the top crop needs facilities, intensive foreign exposure and quality diet. You need to make them mentally prepared that a particular target will need to be achieved,” he said.

“There is no magical growth in judo and it takes time to develop a fighter. If you say that who will qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics at a time when Olympics are around the corner then my answer will be that its difficult. Yes if you say if you work properly for the next few years on the fighters then it will be my responsibility as a coach to prepare a sort of lot which will be world beaters,” Sajjad said.

“Look, Shah Hussain is lucky to have got world-class judo environment in Japan and he has touched the Olympics twice and his skills are good. Here in Pakistan the case is different. Qaisar Afridi is the best fighter among Pakistan-based players but he will not develop unless he is intensively exposed in international circuit. The more he will get international fights the more he will learn and improve. Its not a rocket science but it needs a proper plan and its right implementation,” he said.

“Look, Qaisar is training in Pakistan. He needs best sparring partners. There are two ways we can manage for him the best training opportunities. Either we should send him to Iran, Russia or other Central Asian country or we should bring in a few top players from Iran of his weight category to Pakistan and so that he could train with them. But in order to develop a fighter you will need to work on him properly and with a professional approach,” he said.

“In the Islamic Games, Qaisar showed some guts. I was in touch with him and he barely missed a bronze medal. He is young and clever boy and has all sort of qualities of a top stuff but he direly needs exposure which is the only way he can grow with,” Sajjad said.

Pakistan Judo Federation (PJF) plans to field Shah Hussain, Qaisar Afridi and Mohammad Hamid in the 2024 Paris Olympics Qualifiers which have already started. Its a two-year long process and by June 2024 the final qualification statistics will be released by the International Judo Federation (IJF) which will decide the fate of the fighters.