To outsiders, a Pakistani boy not interested in cricket could seem like a contradiction in terms. But such boys exist and one of them is Mohammed Rameez Khan, 13.
He is one of the only two table tennis players from the troubled Swat Valley. But that doesn't stop him from dreaming of being a table tennis world champion. Rameez is a part of the 10-member Pakistan contingent here for the Asian Junior Table Tennis and the South Asian Federation Table Tennis championships. The squad includes junior national women's champions Farwa Babbar and Sobia Qamar.
The youngsters from across the border say they are getting on well with 'warm and friendly locals'. They are also excited about Bollywood. Shah Rukh Khan and Katrina Kaif seemed to be the biggest draw though Bipasha Basu has a fan in Sobia.
Rameez says he always wanted to play table tennis. “I was never attracted to cricket.” He used to live with his family in the Swat valley, but shifted to Rawalpindi last year ago following violence and instability there. Lack of facilities in Pakistan though worry him. “There is not much financial support and our federation allows us to play only three-four tournaments in a year.”
Farwa, 15, took up the sport last year. She is now the national champion. Both Farwa and Sobia said they have never faced any opposition. “My family is supportive,” says Farwa.