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Paris Olympics Qualifiers: Pakistani boxer goes missing in Italy

Courtesy: Geo Super

LAHORE: Pakistan suffered a major setback when Asian bronze medallist Zohaib Rasheed went missing in Italy, which is hosting the World Qualifying round for the Paris Olympics boxing in Busto Arsizio Arena in the outskirts of Milan.

This correspondent has learnt that Zohaib vanished on Saturday from the team hotel. Coach Arshad Hussain had gone for attending the managers meeting and then the draws ceremony and when he returned to hotel at around 9 pm local time Zohaib was nowhere.

He left some luggage at hotel room while he took some of his belongings. When the other four Pakistani boxers featuring in the Qualifiers were going down for training on Saturday Zohaib told them that he would undergo training upstairs as it was very cold downstairs. And he did not meet his fellows then.

Zohaib got the key of the room from the reception and he took his passport with him before leaving the hotel. He has got a one-month Schengen visa.

This correspondent has learnt that the head coach filed a report in the nearby police station and the police were also provided with all the details and picture of the athlete.

The police assured the Pakistan boxing team management that they would make every effort to trace Zohaib who belongs to a very respectable department. Zohaib belongs to a boxing family of Lyari and it is strange that he vanished at a major stage where the world’s top boxers had assembled to fight for the Olympics slots.

Zohaib’s fight in the 51kg was due on Sunday against Omid Ahmadisafa of Boxing Refugee Team. Zohaib was regarded as the major hope of Pakistan and had the ability to make a cut for this year’s Paris Olympics.

Pakistan Boxing Federation (PBF) has also informed the Local Organising Committee (LOC) about Zohaib’s matter. This is the third boxer in recent years who vanished in Europe.

After featuring in the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games the country’s two major boxers Suleman Baloch and Nazirullah had vanished. Just before the Commonwealth Games, Pakistan’s top swimmer and four-time national champion Faizan Akbar left team hotel and vanished just after arriving in Budapest, Hungary, for the World Swimming Championship in June 2022.

Faizan and the two boxers (Suleman, Nazirullah) also belonged to the highly respectable department. Due to the poor economic situation, the country’s major athletes have been seen vanishing in Europe which is a huge challenge for Pakistan’s sports authorities.

The PBF had invested a lot on Zohaib as he had been growing as a fighter with every passing day. He had to his credit bronze in the Asian Under-22 and Asian Senior Championship. Last year in Hangzhou he fell in the quarter-finals against the world’s top fighter following a brave fight in the Asian Games which also served as qualifiers for the Paris Olympics.

1- Header image: This correspondent has learnt that Zohaib (L) vanished on Saturday from the team hotel. – PSB/File

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