Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 13, 2003
Tennis duo lob love, not bombs
By MSGR. JIM LISANTE
Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi is twenty-two years old. From an early age, he has made the game of tennis the focus of his life.
Many claim he is the best tennis player in Pakistan. He plays hard. He plays to win. And he is internationally respected for his skill and dedication.
A few years ago, Qureshi needed a doubles partner. Chance respect brought him to a partnership with Amir Hadad, an equally gifted twenty-four-year-old.
Together they have met and dispatched a number of rivals. People who see them together claim that they move as one man. They are, in some ways, far better together than they are individually.
Off court, they enjoy each other’s friendship. Their mutual respect is based on common interests and shared goals.
That’s where the matter should end. But it doesn’t. Qureshi is a Pakistani Muslim; Hadad is an Israeli Jew. Pakistan does not recognize the nation of Israel and shares no diplomatic ties with it.
For a time the team was able to keep a low profile. But at the last Wimbledon competition in England, their partnership exploded in a round of fairly ugly controversy.
Pakistani officials insisted the relationship end immediately. The players begged to disagree.
Qureshi said: “We truly respect each other. And have for the two years we’ve played together. I never thought it was going to become such a big thing. We’re not here to change anything. Politicians and governments do that.”
Hadad echoed that sentiment: “We are good friends and I think we’re going to keep playing together in the future. The game and our friendship are all that matter here.”
But Pakistan Tennis Federation senior vice president Khawaja Saeed Hai suggested that Qureshi’s whole career may be in danger if he continues to play with Hadad.
Said the official: “I think he can be forgiven, but he should not repeat this act. He has to realize that for Pakistani Muslims, Israel is a very contentious and sensitive issue. It is not just about playing tennis.”
But maybe it is. Or should be. What we’ve witnessed in this controversy is both illuminating and challenging. Here are two young men who have by background and upbringing every reason to see each other as enemies. But they don’t. They have decided, instead, to bridge their differences, to celebrate what they share in common – like a good game of tennis.
The ongoing conflict in the Middle East is nothing less than a catastrophe. It has cost too many lives. It has destroyed the peace of too many innocent families. It has left countless people wounded, physically and psychologically. You have to wonder, every time the media reports a new wave of violence, where it will end.
As long as we see people of other backgrounds strictly in terms of their differences from us, all hope seems lost. But when we start to examine our similarities as people of the same world, those differences can begin to fade.
Pakistani tennis ace Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and Israeli pro Amir Hadad give us a glimpse of the possibilities. Raised to reject each other by virtue of their nationalities, they have, instead, found common ground. In teamwork, in competition and in an unexpected friendship, they give us hope in a time of great anxiety. We are, in the end, far more members of the same family than not, if only we have the eyes to see. I pray that for humanity’s sake, Aisam and Amir will keep playing together.
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, Being a Good Neighbour, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail: email@example.com.)
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