Meet Sarib Qazi - the Shining Rugby Star of Kashmir
I am Sarib Qazi from Rajbagh, Srinagar and I see myself as an ardent sports lover and a technology enthusiast. I did my schooling from Burn Hall, where I was first introduced to sports. I tried my hand at roller skating and football before I fell in love with rugby. Having relocated to UAE for work, I am currently playing for the Dubai Hurricanes in the Gulf Premiership and West Asia Championship.
I come from a family of doctors and was always told that studies are very important to do well in life. Every time I had a chance to choose between studies and sport, I would dash out for sports over study every single time. For most of my childhood, I was used to hearing the phrase darbadar gomut. This had led to a serious divide in my house as to what my main priorities should be. Although my father always supported me to participate in sports, things changed when rugby started to emerge as a serious passion in my life. Everybody in the family thought that I was wasting my time and should concentrate more on my studies. I had to ensure I was keeping up my academic grades to get permission from school and parents to go away for national tournaments from school. It was only when I made it to theUnder 20 Indian National Team; I started getting proper support from my family and other communities.
Many of my cousins and close friends started playing rugby in 2005 when it was first introduced in Kashmir. I was initially into football, represented my school team back then. I had no plans to join rugby, football being the popular sport in the school. Due to injuries to some players in an inter-school tournament, I got called into the rugby team (primarily due to my aggressive nature of playing and physique) to make up the numbers. I went out to be the highest try scorer of that tournament and helped my school team to win the tournament. Sounds like straight out of a movie, doesn’t it; (chuckling) where the hero saves the day! It was this time I felt that this is the sport that I was naturally made for and I fell in love with it. What really attracted me was the physical nature of the game and the camaraderie that the team members had amongst themselves. I played football for my school team before I got into rugby but cricket never attracted me. Every other person in this country plays cricket, I wanted to do something different, try out something new, something which would challenge my limits and hence I chose rugby.
Changing the status quo of my medicine oriented family I followed my interest in technology and decided to graduate in engineering from SRM University, Delhi. This is where I first got a good platform to portray my rugby talent and make a name for myself while representing top level rugby clubs in the country. Consistent good performance at national level helped me to get into the Indian National Rugby Team (U20)and represent them at Asian 5 Nation championships.
I did my Masters from the University of Leeds in Yorkshire, which is a very well-known hub of rugby in the UnitedKingdom. This is where I was exposed to the top most level of rugby which helped me learn a lot about the game itself, its structure and the culture associated with it. I also got a chance to represent some decent clubs during my stay which helped me understand the game. I was picked to represent British Asian Rugby Association (BARA) by their founder Ikram Butt who was the first Asian to play Rugby for England. During my stay, I also got a chance to visit some of the best rugby facilities of the world and meet some of the top international athletes of the rugby world.
With Legendary England Rugby Front Row and the present England Rugby President, Jason Leonard OBE
As of now, working in UAE as a Program Manager in Microsoft would generally have meant the end of the sporting era for many but not me. Although, I sadly had to let go of a few opportunities of playing rugby in Japan due to injuries at that time but it didn't stop me from continuing rugby. During the first week in UAE itself, I got in touch with Dubai Hurricanes via my club (Lincoln Rugby Club) in the UK and they asked me to get on board to play for them in the Gulf Premiership and the West Asia Championship.
With former IRB Sevens Rugby Player of the Year - Tim Mikkelson at Scotstoun Stadium in Glasgow, Scotland
I have played for teams where I have been the only one from a different culture, religion and a background but have never felt that I was being pushed or cornered because of my background. I believe that people associated with sports are the best to be around especially if they belong from the sport of rugby. This is because when you are ready to put your body on the line for your teammates, you develop a special bond and camaraderie with them that has the potential of lasting for a lifetime.
With Legendary All Blacks Sevens Coach - Sir Gordan Tietjens at Scotstoun Stadium in Glasgow, Scotland
After returning from UK and experiencing the sport and the cult around it first hand, I have realized why people who are more passionate about sports are not supported by their parents or the community to pursue it as a career. The thing in Kashmir and in this part of the world in general is, that parents don’t see an opportunity for their children to do well in life by taking up sports (obviously other than cricket) even if they make it to the highest level of the sport within the country. The truth is that the playing life of a professional athlete is for a maximum of 20 years and the reality is that the sporting system in the country doesn’t provide enough opportunities to take up the sport as a full time profession. This is why there is a general consensus among the majority of parents that sports is only good as a pastime and not a full time career and their children should not give excessive time to it. This is how the sports culture is different from the developed countries like England where every kid has a chance to make a very good living for him and the whole family if he does well in sports. This is because the structure and the bodies of different sports are so well managed that the system itself allows a young player to make a smooth transition from junior rugby to the highest professional level if the player is talented enough. Such factors make a massive difference in the support that is offered to players in developed countries in comparison to nation like ours.
Representing Lincoln Rugby Club in RFU Midlands Division League Competition, England (2015)
I want to let the aspiring rugby players and other athletes to come forward and be a part of this wonderful sport. It provides a wonderful way to keep fit, enjoy with your teammates and if you do wellin it, it provides an opportunity to travel a lot and make friends everywhere.
We Kashmiri people, by the grace ofGod, are physically well-built and slightly aggressive in nature. This sport requires athletes to be fearless and strong so we already have the raw material to be good at the sport naturally. The sport is also a good way to channelize your aggression and energy towards a better cause of keeping fit while promoting the core values of rugby viz Teamwork, Respect, Enjoyment, Discipline and Sportsmanship. The values are transferable to other aspects of your life and will not only make you a better person but will also teach you to handle pressure and take life head on. This is what makes the game special as it creates a very healthy environment and culture.
Being presented the Man of the Series Award by Pakistan Rugby Union President Fauwzi Khwaja
I miss Kashmir so much! Apart from family and friends what I really miss is the food. Our cuisine is very special and not easily found in other parts of the world. The effort that it takes to make Kashmiri food is commendable but the taste is surely worth it. I missKashirTujj and Harisa the most.
Some of the most notable accomplishments of Sarib Qazi are as follows:
RepresentedIndian National Rugby Team in HSBC Asian 5 Nations International Rugby Tournament,Vientiane, Laos in 2010 where I was the top scorer for the Indian National Team in the tournament.
Awarded theBest Player of the Tournament/Fair Player Award in Lahore-Delhi InternationalRugby Cup in January 2012.
Represented the Leeds University Rugby Union Football Club in RFU (England) BUCSUniversities Premiership Rugby competition.
RepresentedLincoln Rugby Football Club in 2015-16 Season in the RFU Midlands Championship in England, United Kingdom.
ParticipatedinAll India Callaghan Cup 2012 and secured GOLD position.
Participated in various State Level All India National Rugby Tournaments from 2006-2010 and captained the team from 2008-2010.
Felicitatedand honoured by J&K Boxing Association as the budding sportsperson for extraordinary achievement and excellence in the field of Sports.
Felicitatedand honoured by SRM University on the Youth Excite Day 2011 for extraordinary achievement and excellence in the field of Sports.
Selected by the Ministry of HRD India for Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youths Programme conducted by JICE, Japan in 2009.
Rugby Career Highlights of Sarib Qazi
International Indian Rugby
India Vs Philippines ( Asian 5 Nations ) Vientiane
India Vs Kazakhstan ( Asian 5 Nations ) Vientiane
India Vs Iran ( Asian 5 Nations ) Laos
India Vs Laos (Asian 5 Nations) Laos.
HIGEST POINT SCORER FOR INDIA with 5 tries and 18points off the boot in 4 test matches.
Lahore-Delhi International Rugby Cup – WinnerJanuary 2012
Lahore-Delhi International Rugby Cup - Man of theTournament, Fair Player Award
All India National 7s Championship – Plate Winner2014
All India South East Asia Club Rugby ChampionshipSep 2007, Sep 2009.
All India State Snow Rugby Championship (March2009).
All India Under-20 National Rugby Championship(2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010).
BUCS Universities Premiership Rugby competition inEngland.
RFU Midlands Championship in England, United Kingdom.
Any message for the aspiring athletes in Kashmir?
In the end, I just want to share a message with all the young athletes who have dreams of pursuing sport as a fulltime profession. If you have the hunger, drive and passion to be the best and have a never ending love with the sport that you want to pursue, you really cango all the way. I know that in this country, with sports such as football, basketball and rugby, it is really difficult to dream that big, to dream of representing the top clubs of the world but trust me, it is possible with platforms such a social media at your disposal these days. If you believe you are good enough record your footage and upload them to YouTube, Facebook and you never know when your skills will catch the public eye and go viral. This gives you chances of being seen by top clubs and you never know, if your talent catches the eye of the top club scouts, you could be on your way to be the next Cristiano Ronaldo, Jonah Lomu, Malakai Fekitoa or the Tongan Thor coming from a small place and making it big in the world of sport. To add on something important to that, it is easy to see big dreams but very difficult to realize them. Success doesn’t come easy and surely not overnight so all you need to have in your mind is that you need to be ready for the time when a big opportunity presents itself. This will require consistent effort and hard work to be put into yourself and your game since a very young age so that you are ready to pursue your passion at the time when the right opportunity comes your way.
Rugby has taught me to be fearless, resilient, and a tough nut to crack all the while teaching me to be a respectable and a great team man. It has certainly made me a lot more confident and has equipped me with an immense self-belief which constantly tells me to work harder than others, to be better than them and achieve anything and everything I want in life. I just want to carry on playing my favorite sport and see where else it takes me. So far, as I see it, it took me from the Paradise on earth to the Land of the Rising sun and to the Land of the Ruling Queen. And I believe there are more to come!
At Twickenham Stadium,London - The home of England Rugby and the biggest rugby stadium in Europe