Saturday , July 13 2024

Jammu and Kashmir is the center of volleyball, it needs proper facilities and support: Saqlain Tariq

Chennai, 20 February (HS). Indian volleyball player Saqlain Tariq's inclusion in the third season of Rupay Prime Volleyball League powered by A23 has already caught the attention of fans.

One of the country's brightest volleyball stars, Saqlain, who hails from Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch district, is leading new franchise Delhi Toofans this season.

After the shock win over Bengaluru Torpedoes at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium on Sunday, the experienced setter expressed his desire to see more kids from his state reach this level.

“I come from an area where no one expects you to reach this level,” Saqlain said in a release issued by the league. It is a matter of pride for me, my family and my district.”

His volleyball journey started at a young age when he watched his father play the game. At his insistence, when Saqlain was in sixth grade in school, he decided to try the sport and within a few years, he transferred to Punjab Sports Hostel to learn volleyball.

“I played nationals for Punjab and later, I became the first player from Jammu and Kashmir to represent India at the international level,” he said.

In 2014, Saqlain competed for the India Under-18 team at the Asian Championships. Two years later, he made it to the junior Indian men's volleyball team and in 2018, he represented the country at the BRICS Games. In 2019, he played for the Indian Under-23 team in a competition in Myanmar, where his team won the silver medal. In 2021, the 27-year-old played in the Indian Senior Asian Championship in Japan.

Saqlain's father works as a physical education teacher and volleyball coach, and his mother, a housewife, also runs a small school to teach young children. But despite being from a family of modest means, her family provided her with all the necessary support, financial or otherwise, to help her continue her volleyball career.

Saqlain said, “I am indebted to him. Without their support, I wouldn't be here.”

In 2014, Saqlain also received a contract offer from ONGC for three years, and then he started earning money from competitions and thus supporting his sports career. Currently, he is holding the post of a Petty Officer in the Indian Navy.

Saqlain, who has already achieved a lot in his young career, dreams of seeing more youngsters from the state take up the sport. He also runs a volleyball club in his home, where he trains 50-60 children every evening.

“People might not know this, but Jammu and Kashmir is a big hub of volleyball, where more than 20,000 fans came to watch the game,” he said, recalling a local match. Saqlain admitted that the development of the sport has stalled beyond a certain point due to lack of facilities and exposure in the state.

He said, “I wonder why despite having so much love, we are so far behind? Sports in the state lack exposure and facilities. Till date, I don't think there is a single job in sports in the state. How?” Can parents think of sending their children to the field without planning for their future? This is the biggest issue.”

He further requested the government to provide assistance so that talented volleyball players from the state can get opportunities to compete in the biggest competitions.