‘Nothing, not even Hepatitis B, can stop me’ [Express Tribune]

‘Nothing, not even Hepatitis B, can stop me’ [Express Tribune]

by Natasha Raheel

KARACHI: Sport is all about exceeding one’s boundaries and pushing oneself to the limit. It is about standing strong in the face of adversity and breaking barriers to reach unprecedented heights. It is all about conquering one’s own self.

Former U19 striker Fazal Muhammad is one who has seen it all.

Having been diagnosed with Hepatitis B in 2014, the 21-year-old from Kanak, Balochistan has had to endure a torrid time from being rejected by clubs on medical grounds and then having to work as a mechanic at an auto shop, while still holding true to the love of his life; football.

“It’s been a long journey but I’m trying to make a comeback,” Fazal told The Express Tribune. “I’m still young and I’ve had my share of struggles. I just couldn’t quit football; illness was not an excuse. I found out about it in 2014 but my health had been deteriorating since quite a while.”

Fazal, a natural striker, was once the brightest young prospects of the country and had represented the national U14 side against Iran and Maldives in 2008. He managed to score his first goals for the country as part of the U16 side against Afghanistan and Singapore in 2010 and was the first name on the list when it came to picking the squad.

In 2011, after making it to the U19 team, Fazal was primed to make his way into the senior side but that was where disaster struck; his poor health cut short his stint with the U19s and it was never the same for the youngster.

That very same year, Pakistan Navy, the club for which he used to play refused to keep him in the team, while KRL, four-time national champions who had showed interest in him, also backtracked once they got wind of his illness.

“That was a blow, not only because I was sick but I had to arrange the funds for the treatment myself. With the help of some friends and family I managed to do that but I was never the same after that,” he said.

“Self-doubt had crept into my mind. I began doubting my abilities but the dream of playing again one day kept me afloat,” he added.

During his time-off from football Fazal worked as a mechanic at an auto shop in the morning, while in the evening he would play football with his friends at a local club in Khuzdar, Mir Ghaus Bizenjo Bux FC.

For three years he followed the same schedule and worked on his rehabilitation hoping that someday he would get to play football professionally. And his wish was granted in 2015 when Karachi United (KU) came calling.

KU’s interest in the youngster not only gave Fazal hope, it made him believe. “KU gave me hope, they took me in. I feel I have a place there. The key is to work hard and not get disheartened in tough times and have faith.”

Fazal now hopes that one day he will be able to represent the national side and is working hard to reach that goal. In the meantime, he wants to inspire the youth in Balochistan to follow their dreams the way he did and is confident that the province will produce stars of the future; stars who would one day don the national colours of Pakistan and make the country proud.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 24th, 2016.