The Cycling Dream Pakistan National Cycling Team

From some of the remotest villages in Pakistan emerge these high passioned young men. On the first glance there is nothing particularly fancy about them, thin and lean, cracking jokes, yet when you listen to them closely they are talking about Tour Du France , Team Astana and how the last competition went among them. It is surreal to see these young men be so passionate about cycling as a sport. Most of them haven't even been to school or had the opportunity to follow international cycling competitions due to their resources, yet their eyes shine when they talk about cycling.

The cyclists on the national team are usually either hired by departments (WAPDA, SUIGAS, etc and are paid 150USD or less per month plus bonuses if they win) or otherwise are in a provincial team, where they don't get any financial benefits. But the thing they all have in common is the passion.

The Luggage of a team member

The national team is comprised of some wonderful cyclists who have struggled all their life to reach a point where they will wear the national colors. We have soup sellers , iron welders , shop keepers, cloth sellers and a range of other fantastic people weaved together by this sport. Two of the Junior team members (in the photo below) are both 16 and have immense talent.

Habibullah (left) Tanzeel (right) Pakistan Junior Cyclists both 16 years old.

These two are our hope for the Olympics, if they are trained well beginning today, they have a bright chance of representing Pakistan in the 2020 Olympics. Habibullah is from Islamabad. He used to have a soup stall outside PolyClinic Hospital (which was removed by CDA recently), now he has been offered a job by Islamabad Cycling Association.

Our National team

Top Left: Farman, below him: Burhan, next to them: Arsalan, bottom left: Abdul Basit, bottom right: Haroon (Manager)

Here is a story of my meeting with the National team before they left for Bahrain

Haroon and I go a long way back, even before we started our university we had met at the home of a cyclist enthusiast, a common friend. Haroon called me to Jinnah Stadium to take some pictures of the cycling team before they left for the championship in Bahrain. Underneath the stadiums seating is the Jinnah Hostel. The boys were staying at room no. 109.

I had never been inside the hostels, so it seemed like a fantastic opportunity to get some documentary shots of our cycling team. This image shows the entrance to the Jinnah Hostel, where cyclists, runners gymnasts and other sportsmen resided.

As I entered the hostel, I wasn't surprised to see the depilated condition of the place. It looked like a place where you could film a horror movie.

As you pass by some open and some closed doors you can't miss out the passionate discussions going on , on techniques and different sports by the athletes. That's when you realise that this place is filled with dreams and passion.

The general conditions are ignored by the athletes and all they focus on is training hard. They all dream to be the next champion from Pakistan.

Room 109. The cycling team of 6 to represent Pakistan in the 37th Asian Cycling Championships in Bahrain was staying inside.

As I entered, I was greeted by Habibullah (as he knew me), Farman was lying in his bed after a training run.

The room was quite large and had 8 beds. One of the window had a curtain on it, the light was bright outside and because of the three windows the room was well lit. The bicycles that had to go with the team were neatly stacked against the wall. These bicycles cost anywhere from 2000 USD to 6000 USD, to ride them a privilege as these guys would hardly ever be able to afford one on their own.

Burhan, was giving tips to Habibullah about technique when I entered the room.

Fata Cycling Association had the boxes made for transportation of the bicycles. Here are the boxes for the bikes ready to be loaded. Later on we pasted stickers on the bags as the final preparations were made.

The team was told to suit up for the photoshoot. The good thing about this was that all suits were tailor made for each one of them.

The suits were a good fit.

Habibullah all set for the shoot, the ties hadn't arrived yet, but we went ahead with the shoot.

The Pakistan team was now ready.

We walked out to the middle of the stadium for the photos. The idea was to get some team photos and some portraits. The light was fantastic. The athletes well dressed and the Pakistani national colours shining.

They wear the colours with such great pride. You can see it in their eyes.

The Team

Habibullah couldn't go Bahrain as they found out that he was younger than the Junior age bracket.

The Seniors finished 15th out of 19th in the time trials.

Arsalan is our top bet in the international competitions.

Tanzeel also got to know on the day of the flight that he cannot participate because of his age.

Haroon, who is the Secretary General of Islamabad cycling association was selected to be the Manager of the team. Having seen the performance at the event, Haroon has shared with Pakistan Cycling Federation the plan to improve our cyclists. Haroon has also personally become the mentor for Habibullah to ensure the kid a bright future.

Even though the results might not be all that great right now, but these guys will be the shining stars of Cycling from Pakistan. Unfortunately, we'd never care about cycling as much as we do about cricket.

Created By
Umayr Masud
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©Umayr Masud

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