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SAHIWAL: Chichawatni, a small town which produced three national badminton champions, is lacking basic infrastructure and indoor badminton courts for regular practice.

The town produced three national badminton champions in under 12, 17, 16 categories during 2014-15 and one girl national player Azmat Firdous in under 16 during 2015. Many believe the town has a potential and can be nurtured as a domestic nursery for establishing national and international badminton champions.

Chichawatni, located 35kms away from Sahiwal, has a history of producing national level champions for five decades.

Former national champion Anees Ahmed, currently providing training to 38 young players in Government High School, says he has been serving as coach for 30 years. He said he trained Abdullah Shafi and Murtaza Shafi who won the under 12 and 17 national championships in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Highlighting the past history, he said two players of Jinnah Sports Club -- Mirza Muhammad Sadiq and Waqar Ahmed -- had been prominent at national badminton tournaments between 1968 and 1980.

After these two players, he said players like Muhammad Saeed, Shaikh Abdul Malik and Dr Qasim Ali kept the city tradition alive at the national level.

Mr Ahmed said that Murtaza Shafi had represented Pakistan in the Asian Junior Badminton Championship in Bangkok in 2014. Unfortunately, he said the town was lacking an indoor court of international standard despite having the best talent of badminton.

District Badminton Association Secretary-General Javed Iqbal said there were two open courts at Baldiya Lawns in TMA and Jinnah Sports Club while a hall was located at the MC High School which was already declared unsuitable.

He said another hall, popularly known as Gurdawara Hall, was located at Primary Girls School, but it was in the possession of an influential politician. Tahir Javed, another national level coach who trained Azmat Firdous and Muqayat Tahir at Gurdwara Hall, said they got the possession of the Gurdwara Hall after a struggle of two months. This hall is cemented, but in a poor shape. He said all badminton championships at the international level were played on wooden courts, but the city did not have even a proper cement court.

It is learnt that a badminton court has been lying unfinished in the TMA Housing Scheme for the last five years. At least Rs6 million are required to complete the hall, but neither the TMA nor the Punjab Sports Board is interested in accomplishing the task.

Badminton Association general-secretary Tayyab Sohail said the association could promote badminton players, but developing infrastructure at the divisional and district level was the responsibility of the Punjab Sports Board.

He said the association held tournaments and sent players to international championships. He said recently the association sent three men -- Sajid Husain, Zafar Tasneem and Nadeem Khan -- to Malaysia for getting Level 2 international coaching. He demanded of the PSB to develop wooden courts of international standard.

Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2016