Olympic and World Champion Neeraj Chopra’s latest move of extending an invitation to his Pakistani rival and friend Arshad Nadeem to visit his home in Haryana and have lunch with him has won the golden boy of Indian athletics admirers across the two countries.
The fact that Chopra is also a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) in the Indian army and yet he never loses an opportunity to be cordial and friendly to Arshad Nadeem in and off the field is being appreciated all over.
Neeraj Chopra invited Arshad Nadeem and all the visiting javelin throwers to his home in Haryana for lunch. He said this while speaking to the press after bagging the World Championships medal followed by a second finish at the Zurich Diamond League.
Answering a question, Neeraj said he would not just invite Nadeem, but any javelin thrower who comes to India will be invited to his home in Chandra, which is near Panipat in Haryana.
Earlier, Neeraj had told the media and netizens: “I request everyone not to use my comments to develop their propaganda. Sports teaches unity.”
Neeraj and Arshad had first met when participating in the South Asian Games in 2016. There was an instant chemistry between them as both realized that the other was a great athlete.
When they met again at the Asian Games in 2018, the bond grew more assertive. Neeraj claimed the gold medal and Arshad won the bronze. A photo of them shaking hands with their respective flags draped around their shoulders went viral. It was a sign that the spirit of sport could overcome political divisions.
The two javelin throwers from the subcontinent have made their mark in the international arenas. Arshad Nadeem’s feats have taken the world by storm and made him a household name not only in Pakistan but in India too.
He was the first Pakistani athlete to qualify for the final of any track and field event at the Olympic Games and the World Athletic Championships. In one respect he has got the better of Neeraj. He was the first Asian javelin thrower to cross a distance of 90 metres with a throw. Neeraj has not yet been able to breach the 90-metre mark.
Recently Arshad became the first ever Pakistani athlete to win a medal at the World Athletic Championship by taking the silver medal behind Neeraj’s gold. Arshad is now ranked number 5 in the world and has become a big celebrity in Pakistan rivaling the famous cricketers. Some of the leading names of Pakistan cricket have become his fans and follow his exploits. So Pakistan has found a new hero.
According to a report in The Dawn newspaper of Karachi, he is a versatile sportsman. He is a good cricket player, can throw the discus, and also plays badminton at a high standard. Giving up cricket was a difficult decision for him. But later he explained: “Perhaps it was good that I stopped playing cricket when I was a boy. My father is not a rich man and he would have found it difficult to buy the cricket equipment for me.”
Neeraj Chopra has heaped wholehearted praise on his rival’s achievements. According to Neeraj, his opponent can gain many additional laurels with more encouragement and better facilities.