It was a rare moment for all especially the kids to cross path with the star cricketer Shahid Khan Afridi aka: Boom Boom Afridi. The occasion was reception by Royal Academy of Cricket-Riyadh in his honor. AlKhozama Banquet Hall was packed to capacity with young and old, men and women, and of course the small kids – from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh – all in anxious wait to have a close glimpse of this cricket icon of today.
Wow – after a wait of a couple of hours entered the great hero of cricket – and all rose on their feet with the loud bangs of Boom Boom Afridi – to welcome him and to have a close look at him.
Royal Academy of Cricket (aka: RAC) is a non-political, non-profit making entity of dedicated individuals with a mission to promoting cricket in Saudi Arabia. Recently RAC has launched a talent hunt program whereby they are in a mission of head-hunting of talented young cricketers. RAC would be providing them with adequate coaching in order to groom, train and ready them for competitive matches in Saudi Arabia and abroad. Visit to Riyadh of Shahid Afridi can be seen in the same backdrop. His presence amongst the young cricketers is bound to boost their moral and elevate their confidence. The young selected cricketers would have the opportunity to benefit from his experience and knowledge of cricket and would be motivated to follow in the footsteps of this great cricketer.
Prof. Dr. Mujahid Khan Kaimkhani – Media Manager of RAC – took to the dais and invited Shahid Afridi to take his seat on the stage. Other select few cricketing luminaries in Riyadh were also invited to take their respective seats on the stage namely, Qadir Mirza (Saudi Fransi Bank), Samir (Saudi Cricket Council – SCC), Rana Hamid (SCC), Dr. Aamir Tarar (RAC), Zahid Raza Khan (Embassy of Pakistan), Ahsan Rizvi (RAC), Mamoor Elahi (Riyadh Cricket League – RCL), Jawad Al-Khalifa (RCL), and Nadeem Babar of Riyadh Cricket Association aka: RCA.
The program began with recitation of verses form Holy Quran by Salman Siddiqui – Operations Manager of RAC who later also anchored some segments of this event. Prof. Dr. Mujahid first of all welcomed the Chief Guest of the event – Shahid Afridi – to the city of Riyadh. He said it was a historic and momentous moment that Shahid Afridi was amongst his fans in Riyadh. He requested all, especially the excited small kids to demonstrate discipline by keeping seated so the event could progress in a nice manner. He then invited speakers – one by one – to express their feelings for Shahid Afridi and the event.
Qadir Mirza of Saudi Fransi Bank came to the podium and requested the audience to give standing ovation to this cricketing hero. The audience responded and gave a thumping welcome to him. He described Afridi as a great cricketer who has the records of the fastest 50 and fastest 100 under his belt which remain unbeatable so far. He requested all to extend all support to Afridi in his mission to build a hospital for the poor and the disadvantaged in his native place of Jerma – a small village on Peshawar-Kohat road. Jawad Al-Khalifa – of RCL and a supporter of cricket in Riyadh – thanked RAC for inviting him and assured Afridi of all his support in his noble mission. Ahsan Rizvi – Coach and Development Manager of RAC – said SCC has started this talent hunt of young cricketers which is the first of its kind in a non-cricket playing nation. He appreciated Afridi for his time and useful advice that he rendered to the young cricketers during the coaching event organized by RAC. Mubashar Kiyani – Director Operations of RAC – said RAC would continue with full vigor its mission of talent hunt. Hamid Rana – of SCC – presented a brief introduction of SCC and mentioned that it was like a dream come true that the talent hunt program has kicked off. He added that more than 100 young cricketers have been selected who be coached and readied for playing matches inside Saudi Arabia and at stations abroad.
When the Chief Guest Shahid Afridi of the event was invited to deliver his speech the audience burst into sustained clapping with standing ovation one more time. The young ones couldn’t control themselves and almost all of them jumped to take a close berth near the stage. Clapping continued unabated for quite sometimes and Prof. Dr. Mujhaid had to intervene and make an earnest request to all to halt it so Afridi could speak. Star cricketer Afridi began by thanking RAC for inviting him and providing him an opportunity to be able to be with his fans and admirers in Riyadh. He congratulated SCC for promoting cricket in the Kingdom – without the help of any sponsor and sans any other support whatsoever. He mentioned in his opinion there was cricket talent here amongst the youth however due to absence of any infrastructural facility here the hidden talent was not able to be unearthed. He appreciated the efforts of both SCC and RAC for taking up this mission of talent hunt. “This honest endeavor of yours would bear fruit”, he added. He also made an earnest appeal to all the cricket associations in the Kingdom to shun politics and work as one entity – for the cause of cricket. “The talented cricketers should be given chance on merit alone”, he added. Finally he mentioned that he has a mission to build a decent hospital for the poor in his native place. “I plan to accomplish this project with my own resources however I would welcome and appreciate if individuals or organizations would come forward and extend help to me in my mission”, he said. Prof. Dr. Mujahid then mentioned that RAC appreciates the works of the individuals who have rendered services for the community and in appreciations of their services RAC now awards memento shields to the,. Amongst huge clapping from the audience shields of appreciations were awarded to the following: Khaled Al-Maeena, Qadir Mirza, Faiz Al-Najdi, Nadeem Nadvi, Abdul Karim Khan, Mamoor Elahi, Patterson, Jaffer, Tariq Javed, and Ms. Asma Tariq, Javed Shamim, Prof. Javed Iqbal, Shahzad Alam Siddiqui, Dr. Zafar Elahi, Jawad Al-Khalifa, Javed Munawwar, Rana Abdul Rauf, Prof. Sultan Ayub Meo, Prof. Ali Al-Tuwaijri, Tariq Mehboob Mir, Aalee Al-Otaibi, and Ms, Neha Azyz.
After this award ceremony, Salman Siddiqui (Operations Manager RAC) thanked the sponsors for their support in making this event a success, namely, Saudi Fransi Bank, NAS Air, Knowledge Core Academy, and Global Mentor Technologies. At end of the event the young kids and girls all thronged on the stage and lined up for group photo with the star cricketer Afridi who happily posed before the camera for each one of them. The event concluded with sumptuous dinner consisting of mouth watering and lip smacking Desi and Arabic culinary cuisines.