Sports

Prime Volleyball League: Jammu And Kashmir A Hub Of Volleyball, Says Delhi Toofans Skipper Saqlain Tariq

Already having achieved plenty in his young career, Saqlain's dream is to see more youngsters from the state come up and rise in the sport

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DelhI Toofans skipper Saqlain Tariq. Photo: Special Arrangement
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Indian volleyball player Saqlain Tariq's addition to the third season of Prime Volleyball League (PVL) has already garnered much attention from fans. One of the brightest volleyball stars of the country, Saqlain, who hails from the Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir, is leading the new franchise Delhi Toofans this season. (Streaming | More Volleyball News)

After a shock win over Bengaluru Torpedoes at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai on Sunday, the experienced setter opened up on his desire to see more kids coming from his state and reaching this level.

"I belong to a region from where no one expects you to reach this level. It is a matter of pride for me, my family, and for my district," an emotional Saqlain said after the match.

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His volleyball journey started at a young age as he watched his father play the sport. Upon his insistence, Saqlain decided to try out the sport when he was in the 6th class in school, and within a couple of years, he shifted to the Punjab sports hostel to pursue volleyball.

"I played Nationals for Punjab and later, I became the first player from Jammu & Kashmir to represent India at the international level," he said.

In 2014, Saqlain competed for the India U18 team at the Asian Championships. Two years later, he made it to the Junior Indian Men's Volleyball Team, and in 2018, he represented the nation in the BRICS game. In 2019, the setter played for the Indian U23 team in a competition in Myanmar, where his side won a Silver medal. In 2021, the 27-year-old played in the Indian Senior Asian Championships in Japan.

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Saqlain's father works as a Physical Education teacher, and a volleyball coach, and his mother who is a housewife, also runs a small school to teach young kids. But despite being a family of modest means, his family provided him with all the necessary support, financially or otherwise, to help him continue his volleyball career. "I owe them everything. Without them backing me up, I would not be here," Saqlain said.

In 2014, Saqlain also got a contractual offer from ONGC for three years, and then also started earning money from the competitions, and thus started supporting his sporting career. At the moment, the Delhi Toofans star holds the position of a Petty Officer in the Indian Navy.

Already having achieved plenty in his young career, Saqlain's dream is to see more youngsters from the state come up and rise in the sport. The setter also runs a volleyball club back home, where he trains 50-60 children every evening.

"People might not know this, but Jammu & Kashmir is a big hub of volleyball," he said, recalling a local match where over 20,000 fans turned up to watch the game. Saqlain admitted that due to a lack of facilities and exposure in the state, the growth of the sport has haltered beyond a certain point.

"It makes me wonder despite having so much love, why are we lagging so far behind? The state is lacking in exposure and facilities in sports. To this day, I do not think there is a single job in sports in the state. How can parents think about sending their kids to the ground without planning their future? This is the biggest issue," he said.

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He went on to further request the government to provide support so that the talented volleyball players from the state can find opportunities for themselves to compete in the biggest competitions.

Saqlain also urged the youngsters from Jammu and Kashmir to start creating their opportunities and not keep searching for exposure. "I request youngsters of Jammu and Kashmir to not just search for the exposure. But create exposure for yourself and others. From the bottom of my heart, I want to see this," he said.

He also urged families to send their kids to sports grounds, so that they can avoid mixing with wrong activities.

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"I also request all senior citizens that support your kids and do not stop them from going into sports. Parents are always are when they feel their kids are going the wrong path. There is a rampant issue of youngsters heading towards drugs or other negative activities in the state, and parents should make kids aware of the danger and get them invested in sports, as it will help them learn valuable lessons and bring discipline in their lives," he signed off.

The third edition of Prime Volleyball League will be broadcast on Sony Sports Ten 1 SD and HD, Sony Ten 3 SD and HD (Hindi) and Sony Ten 4 SD and HD (Tamil and Telugu) TV channels in India. PVL 2024 will also be live streamed on the Sony LIV app and website in India.

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