Azam Khan with BBC journalist Rasheed Sakhoor back in 2012
Azam Khan with BBC journalist Rasheed Sakhoor back in 2012 Image Credit: Courtesy Rasheed Sakhoor

Dubai: Pakistan’s legendary squash player Azam Khan, who won the won the British Open title three times in a row between 1959 and 1961 and died of coronavirus in London at the age of 95 had inspired many sportsmen to achieve great heights.

Well known for his fitness, he guided not only his relatives into the game but also many others. Azam’s brother is the legendary squash player Hashim Khan. Azam was the second cousin of the leading Pakistani players of his time Roshan Khan, Nasrullah Khan, who sons are Jahangir Khan, Rehmat Khan and Torsam Khan. His grand-daughter Carla Khan is British-Pakistani professional squash player. Azam Khan stopped playing due to an Achilles tendon injury and after the death of his 14-year-old son

Qamar Ahmad, the veteran journalist, had followed Azam’s career closely. As Qamar too lived in England, like Azam, he could meet this legend often.

Azam Khan
Azam Khan Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Speaking to Gulf News about his memories on Azam, 82-year-old Qamar Ahmad said: “I first saw squash in my life in 1957 when the great British Open champion Hashim Khan, (who won British Open seven times from 1951 to 1956 and again in 1958) elder brother of Azam, visited Hyderabad Sindh with first black Wimbledon Tennis champion Althea Gibson to demonstrate a game of squash to students.

"I saw Azam a few years later at PIA Squash complex in Karachi for the first time and by then Hashim had settled down in US and died there but every time he came to London where Azam lived they would visit Grampians Squash Club with Roshan another brother champion, father of Jehangir. All were Pathans from Peshawar including Qamar Zaman, Jahangir and Mohibullah. Air Marshal Nur Khan of PIA looked after them as head of Pakistan Squash Federation as he did cricket and hockey.”

Qamar used to meet Azam at the Grampians Squash Club in England’s Shepherd’s Bush area, which is two streets away from Qamar’s flat. “Hashim and Azam spoke with Peshawri accent and could not speak Urdu fluently. Both of them were ball pickers in Colonial times in Peshawar and fit as a fiddle playing squash players in courts of Peshawar after the British left the courts.”

Another journalist Rasheed Shakoor of BBC Urdu recalled his meeting with Azam in 2012. “I interviewed him for BBC during the London Olympics,” he said. “He called me to his home and I spend over two hours with him and even took a snap with him. I will always treasure it. He was not only a great sportsman but a nice human from all the tales I have heard about him. He. like his brother, was a jolly person with a smile on his face. His greatest quality was that he never talked bad about anybody but only spread positivity. I am lucky to have met him.”