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Long jump from success to poverty

Thanks to her travails, sports is an insignificant speck in the life of national-level athlete Farzana Khan of Lucknow, reports Sharad Deep.

other Updated: Aug 11, 2009 00:56 IST
Sharad Deep

Farzana Khan could run, jump, play ball, shoot hoops and wield a hockey stick with dexterity.

Not any more.

Paralysed waist down for the past 16 years, the 43-year-old strives to supplement her family’s measly earnings by sewing.

Farzana’s husband Abdul Wahid Khan earns Rs 40 a day by running a gumti (small shop) while her elder son Faiz is into zardozi tailoring.

Farzana, a graduate from Lucknow University, represented Uttar Pradesh in athletics, football, basketball, hockey and kabaddi.

She now accompanies her daughter Neha to the KD Singh Babu Stadium where she plays hockey. Farzana wishes the 11-year-old surpasses her exploits, but hastens to add: “Sports didn’t give me anything (read financial support).”

Farzana’s career got off to a flying start when she was spotted by hockey great Kunwar Digvijay Singh ‘Babu’ in 1979 during an inter-school meet.

He began training the 16-year-old and soon the precocious girl was playing in the nationals.

She also represented Lucknow in kho-kho, kabaddi and basketball.

Called upon to play football under dramatic circumstances when her team went a player short, Farzana lost little time in making a mark and soon became one of Lucknow’s outstanding players for her speed and immaculate ball-control.

The promising career came to a rude end. During a practice session for an international junior football tournament (in Hong Kong) in 1993, Farzana sustained serious injuries when the ball struck her on the head as she went for a header.

Regaining consciousness after two weeks, she found herself on crutches and with significant memory loss. Two wrongly administered injections at the Balrampur hospital aggravated her woes.

“Not only could I barely recognise anyone, the injections ensured I never moved again,” Farzana reminisces. Her troubles were far from over. On a rainy night, electrocution caused further damage to the limp frame.

Help remains a far cry. Sitting in a hand-driven tricycle, Farzana spells out the need for a motorized version but funds remain an issue.

The monthly pension of Rs 2000, instituted by the state government, is irregular and Farzana is yet to benefit from the allowance announced by the Centre.

After abortive representations to the UP government for a job, Farzana approached the Centre.

“Last year in April, I wrote to sports minister MS Gill for financial support. I don’t know what happened to my application,” she says wistfully.

For one who’s been witness to more lows than highs, sport is now but an insignificant speck in Farzana’s strife-torn life.