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‘Want to Meet Salman’: Pak Hockey Brothers on Their India Connect

Pakistan hockey’s brother duo Imran and Rehan Butt talk about their special bond with India, its players and fans. 

Updated
Hockey
3 min read

Video Editor: Rahul Sanpui
Cameraperson: Tazeen

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The entire interview completed, the camera crew was just packing up when Imran Butt, goalkeeper of the Pakistan hockey team, came up and said he had one more thing left to say – “I have a message for Salman Khan”. The 30-year-old hockey player from Lahore said he started watching Khan’s films from an early age, and really wanted to meet him while in India for the men’s hockey World Cup.

“My wish is to meet Salman Khan. If any cricketer appeals, then Salman Khan surely meets them. I really want to meet him, and I hope that he comes to Odisha to meet us while we’re here.”

But that’s not the only thing that Imran and his brother, Rehan Butt, former player and current of the Pakistan hockey team, love about India.

“Whenever I played against India, whether it was in India or abroad, it felt very familiar, like we were playing club hockey since we all knew each other. We used to abuse each other, love each other, and even have fun together. Both off and on the field. When we met off the field it didn’t feel like ‘this one is from the Pakistani team’ and ‘this is one from the Indian team’. We used to go out shopping together,” said Rehan.

“We trouble the sardars in the Indian team a lot because we have a special kind of love for them. We used to ask a senior Indian player who’s a sardar ‘Is it 12 o’clock yet’? We used to trouble each other for fun.”
Imran Butt

Both brothers said that while the players would be at each others’ throats on the hockey turf, they were good friends off it.

Part of Pakistan’s squad at the hockey World Cup, Imran said, “Goalkeepers’ lives are very interesting. After the match gets over, we sit together and discuss what happened. For instance, we say, ‘Remember how a goal was scored after the ball went between your legs. I laughed a lot then but was worried the same could happen to me.'  On the field, we’re very competitive, since both teams are representing their country, but off the field it’s all fun and humour.”

Rehan, who represented Pakistan from 2000 to 2013, recalled his playing days and the camaraderie shared with the Indian players.

“I was good friends with Gagan Ajit Singh, Arjun Halappa and Jugraj Singh. Even today I am in touch with these people.  We keep inviting each other to come over.  But the problem is the wire in between, the border.”
Rehan Butt
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The players, however, weren’t the only fans Rehan had across the border; he also had a big fan following in India.

“I have that sort of fun personality. Yes, I had several fans and friends in India.  Many times I used to get irritated by their calls and would even ignore them. I am still in touch with many of the fans. Some of them even came to Pakistan and stayed at my house. But I have to say, I knew how to handle those situations pretty well too,” he said.

‘India is Better Than Pakistan’

Currently coach of the Pakistan team, Rehan was not hesitant to admit that India is currently the better team between the two.

“Right now, the Indian team is better than Pakistan. But when the two teams are playing a match, one gets to watch good hockey. Spectators also enjoy.  When there’s an India versus Pakistan match in any corner of the world, the word would have spread the day earlier that all the tickets have been sold out. The reason for that is that both teams are playing hockey that people want to watch, and like,” said Rehan.

Butt said he hoped that relations between the countries could improve, so that players from both sides could visit the other country more often.

“I want cross-border travel. Sports should stay away from politics. Sportspersons in both countries have friends in the other. They shouldn’t be a problem. If we get a visa for 10 days, everyone can meet and recall old memories. I want to request both the governments to think about this and pay attention to it.”

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