Standing at 6’3 high, U Mumba Volley’s setter Saqlain Tariq will make history once he marches onto the court on February 2, becoming the only player from Jammu and Kashmir to play in the Pro Volleyball League. Hailing from Poonch – one of the most remote areas of the state, usually bounded by the Line of Control on three side – Saqlain’s childhood has been spent in the sense of terror, rounding off the area he grew up in.
But as he speaks over a telephonic conversation, there is no mention of any horror memory. Rather, he seems humble as ever and sounded more inclined towards his career. “There were no such challenges simply because I come from a sporting background,” said the 22-year-old, whose father – Mr Mohd. Tariq Khan – runs a volleyball training facility at his own personal cost in Jammu and Kashmir.
“I consider myself extremely lucky that I had the support from my family throughout. The big achievement for me, however, remains the fact that I got out from the border area.”
Saqlain was introduced to volleyball by his father at the tender age of 6, hence, making the sport his utmost preference was not the hardest decision of his career. “I was raised in and around the sport (volleyball), hence choosing to go with volleyball as my bread and butter was never a tough decision to make,” explains Saqlain while also mentioning that if he had picked any other sport, he wouldn’t have been half as successful as he is today.
He was in 8th standard when he played his first national (U-14) and it was then that his father realized his true potential. Keen as always, Mohd. Tariq knew Saqlain needs a bigger exposure, hence a decision of marching against the stereotypes clutched. Education was primary, but so was volleyball.
The setter explains that his father went against the current, as his family remained unsure about a positive future in the sport. But to make things happen, Mohd. Tariq sent Saqlain to Punjab.
Joining the Unique Volleyball academy, Khanna, in Ludhiana, Saqlain completed the rest of his education while simultaneously making a name for himself in volleyball. The 22-year-old says that moving away from his hometown helped him big time.
“Just as cricket became India’s culture, volleyball became mine over the time,” said Saqlain in a sparkling rhythm.
Volleyball remains a game full of action and outstanding juncture, and apart from the physical fitness, it behests a high level of mental balance as well. “Apart from the physical strength, volleyball also demands a perfect motivation and a balanced mindset. Volleyball is a sport where the result can be altered in a fraction of second, hence keeping our fitness game up is a must,” explained the 22-year-old, who captained the India team at the 10th Asian Youth Volleyball Championship in Colombo in 2014.
“I can assure you that once you get into the groove and the thrill of this sport, you will stick to your television every day for the game. I just hope this sport gets enough recognition through the Pro Volleyball League.”
As far as his prediction for the Pro Volleyball League goes, Saqlain has refused to write any team off, citing that “every team is perfectly balanced.”