Carrom champ Irshad Ahmed drives autorickshaw now, struggles to make ends meet

Around six months ago, Nagpur's Irshad Ahmed, 37, was hailed a hero after winning the International Carrom Federation Cup at Pune's PYC Hindu Gymkhana in December. Today, he is struggling to make ends meet, as his only source of income, his autorickshaw, has not been plying for over two-and-a-half months due to the Coronavirus-caused lockdown.

No income since March

"I used to earn around R600 daily by driving my auto but due to the lockdown, no one is travelling, so I have no income. My savings are exhausted. Somehow, I am managing to survive with my family thanks to some generous friends and relatives,"

Irshad, the sole breadwinner of his family of six (elderly parents, wife and three kids) told mid-day on Tuesday.

Irshad beat two-time World Champion Prashant More of Mumbai 3-25, 25-14, 25-24 in the final of the ICF Cup which is considered to be the mini World Cup of carrom with players from 16 countries participating. Incidentally, More has been helping Irshad tide over these troubled times.

Irshad after winning the International Carrom Federation Cup in Pune last December

"I'm very grateful to Prashant, who requested a few international carrom players like UAE's Mohammed Azam, USA's Vishal Kalangutkar and England's Mohammed Ali besides Mumbai's Alimodin Mulla and Amey Kulkarni to help me financially. I'm most thankful to them too," added Irshad, who has repeatedly requested his state body, the Vidarbha Carrom Association (VCA), for a job but has been turned down each time.

"Whenever I win district or state-level tournaments and politicians felicitate me, I request them for a job but nothing has materialised so far. I represent VCA at the National Championships and have won several tournaments for them. I feel they must help me find employment," added Irshad.

VCA trying to help

VCA secretary Prabhjeet Singh Bachher said that they have approached political leaders for help. "Girish Vyasji, patron of the All India Carrom Federation, and myself have met union minister Nitin Gadkariji and requested him to provide jobs to some of our top carom players, including Irshad. We will be meeting Gadkariji again in a couple of weeks and are hoping for a positive response," he said.

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