Shahid Afridi: ‘All of us should show humanity’

Afridi, the former Pakistan captain, is now on a new mission - to help the poor suffering amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

On a mission: Shahid Afridi (right) alongside volunteers. - SHAHID AFRIDI FOUNDATION

It has been nearly four years since Shahid Afridi quit international cricket. Away from the cricket field, Afridi is now on a new mission - to help the poor suffering amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the last few weeks, Afridi’s routine has been quite hectic. The former Pakistan captain starts his day early and reaches out to those in need for help. As the founder of the Shahid Afridi Foundation, the 40-year-old has been donating food, disinfectant soap, masks and other amenities to the needy in Pakistan, and his efforts have earned him praises from across the world.

Replying to Sportstar’s questions from his home town of Kohat on Saturday evening, Afridi requested people from India and Pakistan to come out and show insaniyat (humanity). He also thanked his old friend and Indian spin ace, Harbhajan Singh, for encouraging him.

Excerpts from an exclusive interview…

Q. The Shahid Afridi Foundation has been helping out the people in these tough times of COVID-19. How has the campaign been so far?

A. We had to start the campaign in an emergency and things had to be sorted out. We had to do it really fast because in a country where there is unemployment, poverty, it is important to take quick action. It was a challenging task for all of us in the Foundation to go among the people and distribute ration. We had to keep safety in mind. But people needed that help. This country has given me everything, so it is my duty that I help the people in the times of crisis. The campaign is going on really well and my friends are also backing me to the hilt.

As a sporting icon, you have set an example by coming forward and helping the people in these times as well. Do you think this will inspire more sportspersons to come out and help the people in such times?

Every individual has its own character, own nature. Our fans give us a lot, and when they are in need, they also expect us to help them in times of crisis. I can’t comment really on others but I do believe that each of us should show humanity. Humanity is a big thing and every celebrity should come out and help people in such times.

What are the plans for your team to keep the process going over the next few weeks?

For now, we are taking each day as it comes, in terms of distributing ration to people. Our target is to make sure that we can supply food and the basic amenities to the people. I don’t know how long this COVID-19 [crisis will] last. Nobody has any clue, so it is a must to provide them all the essentials. People are stuck at home and many are unemployed, so the priority is to feed them and take care of their health.

Despite lockdown, there are instances where people are coming out of their homes in large numbers, leading to more risks. What's your message to the people? What should they do to ensure that safety prevails?

If the government takes care of the masses, then they won’t step out of homes. Their issues need to be addressed. If there is no food supply, you can’t stay at home, so that’s an essential. But people should not roam around the streets just like that. That should not happen. Safety is important and we need to abide by all the government rules and safety guidelines.

Shahid Afridi (left) and his team of volunteers helping the poor. - SHAHID AFRIDI FOUNDATION

 

Sport is also largely affected due to COVID-19. All sporting action across the globe has come to a standstill. How do you see it?

Nor just sports, businesses, functions, weddings - everything has been cancelled. The effect of the pandemic has been huge, and most scary part is that, there is no proper medication. So, it’s spreading across and my humble request to all the fans would be to stay at home and not step out.

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Many of your team-mates have hailed you for your initiative. What would you message be for them to come out and help the people?

They should come out and help the people. My friends and colleagues have encouraged me a lot and have supported [me]. There should be more support because I am all alone, and if there are people around, it becomes easy to organise everything smoothly. It is a huge challenge. I am grateful to all the people who have backed me. I got a message from my friend Harbhajan Singh, who appreciated my efforts. These things motivate me, because insaniyaat se bada kuch bhi nahi hai. All our religions teach us to show humanity.

You have a huge fan following in India. What’s your message for them in these tough times?

There are so many people there, wahan pe bhi insaniyaat hain. I have always received a lot of love and support from the people of India. People in India should also follow the government guidelines. I wish to work with my government and help them. The Shahid Afridi Foundation works in the sectors of health, education and providing clean drinking water. But this distribution of food was essential in times like these. Me and and a few friends started this project and now many people from different countries are supporting me. People should come out and help, because if everyone sits at home then it won’t be possible to help the people.

In India, too, the people should follow the government guidelines and have self belief. Simple.

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