My name is Khan, and I feel safe in India: Amir Khan
Siddharth Saxena | TNN | Oct 31, 2015, 08.36 AM IST
Amir Khan, a Britisher of Pakistani origin, is on his first trip to India. Normally, such a description would seem unnecessary, Olympic silver medallist (at 17!) should be more fitting. Amir himself would frown inwardly to it, though those big, earnest eyes do well not to betray it. But these are strange times. India will continue to not play Pakistan in sport; worse, eminent Pakistanis will not be allowed in cities once famous for their multiculturalism, ink flows freely, not in creating words of protest but as a shaming medium and there is no apology or remorse for any of it.
Maybe we are stretching the Khan's Pakistan-iyat here. He is, after all, a Bolton boy through and through, but then it is also true that Amir Khan is the most-famous Pakistani out of Pakistan. He ticks all the boxes in the rabble-rousers' hate list. But Amir himself can't really understand what the fuss is all about. Sinking deeper in his chair, leaning back, arm stretched over his head for more comfort, he says with a wry smile, "Hey, I feel safe here. No problem."
He asks you how to get to Ajmer Sahrif Dargah, apart from the Taj Mahal, and then tells us that countries need to play sport with each other if they have to hope to correct wrongs - perceived or otherwise. "What sport does, boxing, it could be cricket, is that it brings countries together. It re-unites them.
"As a boxer, that's what I think will happen. Boxing will change the perspective of how people think. By having academies, boxing shows and events (between India and Pakistan), it's the only way forward to break these barriers. With whatever's going on in the political part, the only way to beat this is by having sport," he says.
"As a Pakistani I want to say I feel safe here and I want to promote sports here. I go to Pakistan a lot too. Both are beautiful places. And I'd like to see more people travelling to and fro. There is a lot of peace in this country. We have to send the right message. I think it is sport that can get people out of poverty."he says.
While he is usually in a quandary over whom to support when England plays Pakistan, Amir is clear that India and Pakistan should play more often. "Definitely. We should learn from each other and work for each other. Sports breaks all boundaries. It brings people together. Imagine how amazing it would be to see India and Pakistan fans together. Supporting the same sport together instead of fighting each other."
Today, a good decade since he became Britain's youngest-ever Olympic medallist and promptly turned professional, Amir Khan is at a peculiar stage of his career. He feels fitter than ever, trains better but are the options on the wane? Despite all the talent and popularity, the big ticket breakthrough fight doesn't seem to happen. Maybe it is his current weight category - welterweight - that is the curse. "At the moment, the world welterweight category is very exciting," he explains, "The Top 10 in the class are very close and breaking through is not easy."
He has learnt to live with not being 'chosen' to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr and then have the strange disappointment of seeing another - Andre Berto -- from his gym picked to fight the American in his farewell bout. Then there's the uncertainty over the much-desired Manny Pacquiao meeting next year, with Amir declaring, almost with a sense of desperation, that he is the front-runner to challenge the legendary Filipino. And at the current stage, in a possible new career turn, maybe even a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) endeavour, though Amir remains cagey about his participation despite labelling it a sport with a great future.
Till then, all Amir Khan can do is wait.
In 2006, there was that famous interview when novelist and playwright Hanif Kureishi visited him in Bolton. A 19-year-old Amir, fresh from signing on the professional contract, spoke of how he would be thinking of retirement at 27 or 28. Today, at 28, Amir laughs it off. "Hey I was just 19 then. You don't look that far ahead when you are 19. You are more involved with the moment then.
"My mum always keeps asking me, 'Amir, you still haven't retired.' My body seems better today than five years ago. I have a good ten years in the tank," he exclaims.
Today, a decade later, he is also aware of his responsibility of the multiple Amir Khans that he carries within his persona - British Muslim dispelling growing suspicion of Muslims worldwide to a global symbol of Asian sporting excellence.
"I get pulled over (at airports) in the US because my name pops up and they say it's a routine check. I'm 100% against the terrorism and against killing people. And I also stand up against all that being a Pakistani-Muslim-British guy, it doesn't say in the Quran to kill innocent people. These are things that some silly people do. People need to get on with each other. Boxing does that, it brings people together. It has done that for me.
Somewhere, Ali-like, the dream is to become the People's Champion. "There is a difference between Mayweather, he's not a people's champion. I want to be a People's Champion. After my boxing career, people will still talk about that he helped communities.
Through his Amir Khan Foundation, which has helped carry out a lot of work in Pakistan during the floods and earthquake, the boxer wants to extend to India too. "I want to help India too, where people need help. India's population is huge and I'd like to do my bit and support them."
The current plan, though, is the setting up of academies. "I'm in India now, I'm also spending a lot of time in Asia and the plan is building boxing academies around the world. We have lots of them in England, we are building one in Doha, opening five in Pakistan."
"As far as the facilities are concerned, we are going to start with one in Delhi and one in Mumbai. I think that's where champions come from, champions come from grassroots."http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/boxing/My-name-is-Khan-and-I-feel-safe-in-India-Amir-Khan/articleshow/49604604.cms