Wrestling loses its grip on Pakistan

Updated 24 January 2013
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Wrestling loses its grip on Pakistan

For decades, their practice ring honed the talent of Pakistan’s most famous wrestling family. Today, it is their graveyard, a fitting symbol of the decline of the sport in the Muslim nation.
The Bholu brothers are buried next to a centuries-old Banyan tree to the side of their former ring. Sweepers clean the mausoleum, but otherwise the compound of a mud court, abandoned gym and small decayed garden is eerily quiet.
Government neglect and poverty has helped consign the glorious feats of Pakistani wrestlers to fast-fading memory. Only a handful carry the torch for the next generation and few command the thousands of spectators of days gone by.
From 1954 to 1970, Pakistan won 18 wrestling gold medals in the Commonwealth Games, five at the Asian Games and a Bronze in the 1960 Olympics.
There was a gold at the Asian Games in 1986 and two in the 2010 Commonwealth Games, but apart from that, international victories have all but dried up. Rings that once thronged with thousands of spectators are now silent.
“I can’t speak about wrestling, it hurts me,” said Abid Aslam Bholu, whose late brother Jhara was the last of the Bholu family to win titles. The legacy ended there, with Abid instead choosing a career in business as wrestling faded.
The family were wrestlers since 1850. The golden generation — brothers Bholu, Azam, Aslam, Akram and Goga — practiced opposite the independence monument in the eastern city of Lahore and behind the shrine of a famous sufi saint.
Bholu challenged American wrestler Lou Thesz and India’s Dara Singh — both world champions — in 1953, although neither accepted.
In 1967, he offered £5,000 to anyone in the world who could beat him and that same year won the World Heavyweight Title fight against Anglo-French heavyweight champion Henry Perry in London. Aslam and Azam enjoyed victories against champions around the world in the 1950s while Akram was nicknamed Double Tiger in 1953 when he beat Ugandan champion Idi Amin. Jhara, who died in 1991 at 31, was the last big name in the family.
Abid has a construction business, a money exchange office, a modern residential development on the edge of the Lahore-Islamabad motorway and an import-export firm and earns more than he ever could from wrestling. “There is no respect for the wrestlers now, there is no more money in the game, so why should one wrestle,” he told AFP.
“Staying at number one is difficult. And when you are number one and nobody respects you, the government doesn’t care about you and your family doesn’t have enough resources, it’s better to do business and earn money,” he said.
For centuries, the rulers of Indian states kept wrestlers to fight rival teams, feeding and paying them well because their victories brought glory to the state.
But after partition from India in 1947, authorities in the new state of Pakistan ignored its wrestlers.
Those left in the sport say that of the 300 akharas, or mud wrestling courts in 1947, barely 30 still operate. The number of wrestlers has fallen from around 7,000 to 300.
Few youngsters are interested and practice courts in central and southern provinces Punjab and Sindh, where most are found, lie deserted.
However, 19-year-old Shehwar Tahir is an exception.
“I have a few friends who practice with me but young people don’t want to become wrestlers,” Tahir told AFP, oiling his body for a workout.
“They say ‘why play this game when it has no future, no money’ and especially when they can’t afford daily meals to gain power and maintain their weight.”
Tahir wakes up at 4 a.m. to do sets of pushups and say morning prayers before going back to bed.
He rises again in the afternoon and goes to the court to do more push ups.
Tahir digs up a 30 square foot mud court with a large hoe, then ties a wooden bar to his neck with a strong rope and pulls the length and width of the court with another wrestler sitting on the bar, to press and level the clay.
To do all these exercises and strengthen his body, he says he has to eat bread, chicken, pulses, fruits and two kg of almonds everyday to maintain his body weight of 90 kg. He drops to 84 kg for competitions.
The Pakistan Wrestling Federation says the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) does not have enough money, and that providing grants to private clubs and courts was a complicated process.


’Sesame Street’ sues over new Melissa McCarthy puppet movie

Updated 26 May 2018
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’Sesame Street’ sues over new Melissa McCarthy puppet movie

NEW YORK: The makers of “Sesame Street” are suing the promoter of a new Melissa McCarthy movie, saying it’s abusing the famed puppets’ sterling reputation to advertise the R-rated film.
A judge Friday scheduled a hearing next week to consider a request for immediate relief by Sesame Workshop, which sued Thursday in federal court in Manhattan for unspecified damages and an order forcing the film to be marketed differently.
The film, “The Happytime Murders,” is scheduled for release Aug. 17. McCarthy plays a human detective who teams with a puppet partner to investigate grisly puppet murders.
The lawsuit said the “Sesame Street” brand will be harmed by a just-released movie trailer featuring “explicit, profane, drug-using, misogynistic, violent, copulating and even ejaculating puppets” along with the tagline “NO SESAME. ALL STREET.”
STX Productions LLC, in a statement issued in the name of “Fred, Esq,” a lawyer puppet, said it was looking forward to introducing its “adorably unapologetic characters” to adult moviegoers this summer.
“We’re incredibly pleased with the early reaction to the film and how well the trailer has been received by its intended audience,” it said. “While we’re disappointed that Sesame Street does not share in the fun, we are confident in our legal position.”
In court papers, lawyers for Sesame Workshop asked the judge to order STX not to use any of Sesame’s trademarks and intellectual property, including the phrase, “NO SESAME. ALL STREET,” in marketing the film.
They said the marketing materials were confusing viewers into thinking Sesame was involved with or endorsed “this subversion of its own programming — thereby irreparably harming Sesame and its goodwill and brand.”
In a release before the film was made, STX said it would be produced by The Jim Henson Company’s Henson Alternative banner, On The Day Productions, and STXfilms, along with individuals including Brian Henson, Lisa Henson, Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone, among others.
In court papers, Sesame’s lawyers said Lisa Henson, chief executive and president of Henson, just days ago emailed Sesame’s chief executive, Jeffrey Dunn, saying it made her “terribly sad” that the marketing campaign “has devolved to this state of affairs.”
Henson said Henson Alternative disagreed with the decision to reference Muppets and Sesame and argued against it, but “contractually we don’t have the right to change it,” according to the court papers.
She also said the Hensons did not view the film as a parody of the Muppets and “resisted creative suggestions. ...Therefore, trading off the famous Muppets to sell the film is exactly what we did not want to have happen,” the court papers said.