Scion of gear manufacturer looks to shake up Pakistan sports, starting with boxing

Published September 5, 2021
COMPETITORS spar during a bout of the 2019 World Boxing Championships in Ekaterinburg, Russia. Green Hill was the official supplier for the event.
COMPETITORS spar during a bout of the 2019 World Boxing Championships in Ekaterinburg, Russia. Green Hill was the official supplier for the event.

KARACHI: Abid Jahangir Riaz is following in the footsteps of his late father.

He’s picking up the baton from Jahangir Riaz; the man who oversaw his own father’s Sialkot-based company, Green Hill, becoming one of the leading sports gear manufacturers in the world.

Jahangir passed away in June this year, his death mourned by many in the global sports fraternity including the world bodies for boxing, judo and mixed martial arts. Green Hill has been a long-time equipment supplier for the International Boxing Association (AIBA), the International Judo Federation (IJF) and the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF).

It naturally meant Jahangir was a global sports personality, who once also ran for AIBA presidency. Less than five months before his death, he was a presidential candidate during the elections of the Pakistan Boxing Federation. Those elections saw the PBF split into factions — one led by Jahangir and the other by Pakistan Olympic Association secretary general Syed Khalid Mehmood — and were naturally not accepted by AIBA, which called for the formation of an ad-hoc body comprising a chairman appointed by the global body and a representative from each faction.

Jahangir’s passing away means there has been no headway on that front. But his son has no intentions of keeping Pakistan boxing stalled.

“Next week, I have a meeting with AIBA president Umar Kremlev and there we will decide how to proceed with this matter,” Abid told Dawn on a telephone interview from Moscow this week. “I’ve held preliminary talks and I have full confidence that my panel will be given a year as PBF office-bearers by AIBA.”

The agency that handles media for AIBA did not respond to Dawn request for comment regarding the appointment of an ad-hoc committee for PBF.

“We will change the landscape of boxing,” Abid added, “and then the landscape of sports in Pakistan.”

Boxing, like other sports in Pakistan, has suffered from lack of funding as well as patronage in recent years. Hussain Shah’s bronze medal at the 1998 Seoul Olympics was to be a watershed moment for the sport in the country but none of his compatriots advanced past the second round in the next four Olympics. Pakistan hasn’t fielded a boxer at the Games since Athens 2004.

Abid wants to change that. And money is no matter for him thanks to his multi-million dollar global business he runs. Currently, Green Hill is working with AIBA to facilitate refugees from Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover.

“We don’t really need to ask the government to provide us with funding,” he said. “There are things we are quite capable of doing ourselves. We can fund events, we can fund the top boxers, we can give them the facilities they need to excel at global events.”

And he isn’t stopping at boxing only.

“We’re also going to invest in other sports apart from ones like judo or MMA where we’re already involved,” he says. “Our plan is to invest in other sports and fund other athletes as well. It’s not just the government’s job to fund athletes but private sponsors can do that too.”

Sports sponsorships, especially in Pakistan, do tend to eventually lead to a stake in the game. Through Green Hill, Abid already has a huge stake in several sports but his sights are set at the very top of Pakistan sports.

“Pakistan sports will only get better if people like us, who have the capacity to spend and have spent on the game in the past come into sports politics,” said Abid. “The move is essential to take Pakistan sports forward.”

With POA’s Khalid leading the opposing PBF faction, Abid’s panel has aligned itself with the government which is calling for the resignation of Pakistan’s Olympic chief retired Lt Gen Arif Hasan after the country’s dismal performance at last month’s Tokyo Games.

Last month, the Pakistan Sports Board turned down a funding request from Khalid’s PBF for the appointment of a foreign coach, with the country’s sports regulatory body citing AIBA’s concerns regarding the January elections.

Khalid told Dawn on Saturday that he was recovering from an illness and would be in a position to speak on Monday.

“It’s very simple that the government doesn’t recognise that PBF,” said Abid. “The difference between them and us is that we can provide funding for anything ourselves.

“The federations really have no accountability, which is primarily why sports is where it is. Now, the government is taking action. I’ve seen real seriousness from them about getting the right people in, the right structures in place.

“That’s what my father was trying to do as PBF chief … and that’s what I’m trying to do now.”

Published in Dawn, September 5th, 2021

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