Meet: The very strong – Arsalan Alex Zahid – Pakistan Team Rugby Captain (straight for 3 years).
“A country’s progress and success are looked upon on how populated their playing fields are” paraphrased – (unknown)
Arsalan goes by the name Alex in the international rugby arena where he is better known for Rugby than in Pakistan. I was introduced to him by an excellent mentor –Waleed and was lucky to have met Arsalan as he is flying out of the country in a few days, proudly joining the Ipswich, RFC –Rugby Football Club (as of DEC last year). Arsalan is also a registered player with the RFU – Rugby Football Union, the controlling body for Rugby in England.
The captain comes from a family where sports has been celebrated and encouraged for years. His father (an Army man) was much into sports and that is where Arsalan got his inspiration as well. Apart from Rugby he plays cricket, football, basketball, swims and regularly goes to the gym to maintain a healthy physique. He stands at 6’4” and with a body like he has; he is a great compliment for the sport. When Arsalan and his family moved to Lahore, was at that time when he was discovered for Rugby. He was running around the National Stadium in Defence on a basketball court, and upon seeing his agility was encouraged by some close friends to join the sport.
“In 2006 we represented Pakistan in Philippines, which also happened to be our first tour internationally. Stepping on the field, wearing the green on our chest and listening to the National Anthem was a very emotional feeling in itself. Our first match was against Guam which we won and then second was against Philippines which we won as well. It was euphoria for us, as our hard work had been paid off.”
Arsalan was open as well as candid to say that all support to date for Rugby has come from IRB (International Rugby Board) and ARFU (Asian Rugby Football Union). There has been no support from the government in Pakistan or even the private sector. For him, it is extremely difficult to understand why the government does not try to support a variety of sports in Pakistan which can be a source of so many benefits.
“A country’s progress and success are looked upon on how populated their playing fields are” and according to Arsalan especially in Pakistan there is a world of opportunity to make an investment in sports. He has been trying really hard to push the sport out and unfortunately things have not looked promising and for that reason, in order to take himself further in the sport he is moving to UK.
The player has his fare share of downs as any of us would. He was diagnosed with the rarest form of TB in 2008 which was an agonizing experience for him. Many around him had tried to put him down by saying that his professional career had ended however Arsalan comes from the thinking to never give up. Struggling with side effects of taking 20 tablets a day plus depression; he still managed to make a comeback in 2009.
“When you are down and there seems no way out, work on your strengths. Further, you should never give your weakness out to the next person as the biggest battle is exploited through the weakness. You should be able to camouflage your weakness is the midst of all that is happening around you. For me pain is weakness. I strive to push myself to my limits even though it might seem I cannot.”
Arsalan is a qualified dentist from the Lahore Medical Dental College and has completed his Bachelors in Dentistry. He also writes music reviews of the progressive metal genre at www.ladyobscure.com. He urges the next reader to have a professional qualification as well to have some sort of a safety net. For him, he hardly got any support from his own institution as little as accommodating him for the matches he had to go and play. It was a sad affair in his point of view as when you are building yourself as a player all you need is support; any sort of encouragement as that can take you far.