It’s the ordinary citizens making an extraordinary impact at the Commonwealth Games. From volunteers to baton bearers, these hidden heroes of the West Midlands hold up the stage for athletes whilst giving the sports spectacular that real local touch.
One such figure is a local Solihull resident who made the jump from Table Tennis enthusiast and medical doctor to umpire at Birmingham 2022. Dr Immad Qureshi, 40, is truly an international citizen having lived and worked in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, before settling in the UK as a doctor with an obsession for Table Tennis.
The Birmingham League player discovered his love for the sport at school in Saudi Arabia and the infatuation continued at Army Medical College in Pakistan where he would practice for 4-8 hours a day. A talent started to emerge and people in their droves came to watch the student smack a ping pong ball.
But hopes to play professionally faded away when army college officials didn’t want extra-curricular activities taking over studies. Dr Qureshi said: “I graduated and came to Saudi Arabia and Table Tennis slid away from my life, I played occasionally here and there every few years.
“I was in the emergency department and was treating a patient with some back problems, I like to speak to my patients and get to know them. I asked him what happened and he said he hurt himself during Table Tennis.
He invited me to come and watch him play some time and this got me really excited again so I researched Table Tennis clubs in my vicinity. The doctor nabbed a spot at Kings Heath Cricket and Sports club and managed to beat the best player there.
Then a fateful visit to a Table Tennis Conference changed everything when recruitment for diverse umpires at the Commonwealth Games was advertised. Many courses, tests and a Finland International Open later and Dr Qureshi was made part of the officiating team for Table Tennis at Birmingham 2022, with a Level 2 Umpire qualification.
He said: “People often don’t realise how physically taxing and exciting Table Tennis can be. It is not just physical or hand eye coordination or how athletic you are, its a mind game as well.
“You see it with the strategy, preparation and time outs. There is more to the game than two people holding bats and getting a ball over the net.”
So what does Dr Qureshi think Birmingham has to offer as a host city? He said: “It is the most diverse city in the UK apart from London but London is so busy.
“In Birmingham you see the niceties of people playing host and not in a rush, people who hold the door open for you.
“A lot lot of Commonwealth people, athletes, support staff and officials of different ethnicities and faiths will be coming. There are also Mosques, Gurdwaras and Synagogues as well as different food and culture.
“They will be able to find a part of the city that is home to them. We are absolutely the best host you can ask for.”
Dr Qureshi will be swapping stethoscopes for rackets at the Commonwealth Games and can now add Umpire to his already crowded resume. He concluded: “The Commonwealth Games is a huge way to celebrate the history of the Commonwealth and individual identities of the countries that made up the Commonwealth, it will bring people together.”
Source: Husna Anjum