Ramazan night sports: Carrom tournament returns to Peshawar

PESHAWAR: Syed Akbar hunches over the large, square board. He grinds the board powder under his striker as he lines up a shot. The 50-year-old curls back his index finger, locks it with his thumb and then releases it, sending the striker flying across the plywood board.

Slide, “crack”, pocket.

“Hurrah,” roars the crowd of around 200 people which had been eagerly watching the move at a small ground in Peshawar’s Shiekhabad area.
The spectators, comprising men of all ages, clap in unison to support Akbar.

The scene is from a carrom board tournament which was organised in Peshawar recently. The sport, though rarely held with such public fanfare, had been organised by Muhammad Munir, Nazim of the Shiekhabad village near Peshawar with support from his village council members.

The tournament saw 16 players battle it out for the top spot. Each player had to pocket more disks than the three others sitting on each side of the board.
Akbar, meanwhile, has three disks left, including the queen -the most powerful piece on the board. If he can sink those into the corner pockets, he can win the match.

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The duel continues for 30 more minutes, as each player takes turns trying to sink the small round disks.

However, Akbar manages to clinch the match in the end.

The winner said that such tournaments used to be held in his village around 22 years ago where he along with some friends, used to first participate and later organise the tournaments, especially during  Ramazan.

However, with other alternatives such as snooker parlours and then mobile phones gaining popularity, Akbar told The Express Tribune that the culture of carrom board tournaments during Ramazan had all but vanished.
“Later on, some used to gamble over the carrom board,” he lamented, adding that some of the famous players in the village then gave up the game altogether.

However, slowly but surely the game is making a return. The village council administration has taken a particular interest in it to help provide an entertainment for locals, especially in areas where there are no large grounds for field sports or it costs too much to build such grounds.

Munir told The Express Tribune that during Ramazan, some youngsters go out after iftar and get involved in activities such as smoking hashish or doing other drugs.

“Such tournaments would help involve these youngsters and bar them from going out and getting involved in bad habits,” Munir said.

“The basic purpose of arranging this tournament is to provide entertainment to the locals,” the Nazim says, adding that the tournament would end on Ramzan 27 after 16 games spread over four rounds.

The matches begin late at night at around 10:30pm after Isha and Taraveeh prayers. The matches continue till 2am when everyone goes home for sehri.

When asked how the organisers manage to keep tabs on cheating, Munir said that each match is officiated by two umpires and a player who is not playing the match.

The Nazim went on to explain that their area had been a target for non-state actors who sowed a lot of tension and insecurity among locals.

To get the locals out of their depression, he said such events were imperative and need state patronage.

Azmat Khan, a local who regularly visits to watch the match, said that he used to sit idle in the house after iftar.

“Such activities are vital to refresh the mind.”

By Izhar Ullah , Published in The Express Tribune.

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