Badminton coach S.M. Arif was named Sportstar Hero Unsung Champion at the Focus Telangana Sportstar Conclave on Thursday. Arif, fondly known as Arif sahaab by his students, laid the foundation for India to become a badminton powerhouse. He received the award at the hands of former India women’s cricket team captain, Mithali Raj.
In a touching moment, Arif was subsequently felicitated by two-time Olympic medallist, P.V. Sindhu, whose career took off under his tutelage. “It is my pleasure and honour to be here. I have no words for Arif sir because I have trained under him - he has taught me a lot. He still keeps giving me advice on how to get better. Giving you an award is an unforgettable experience,” Sindhu said.
“I would like to thank Sportstar for honouring me with this award. I dedicate this award to my wife. When I started coaching, I was a coach, a doctor, a physiotherapist - all in one. But I am glad the specialists have come into the field now and that’s brought a lot of change in sports,” Arif said.
He started coaching children in 1978 at the Fateh Maidan Indoor Stadium, with just three shuttles at his disposal. Arif’s academy later became a feeder line of national and international champions with pupils such as Manoj Kumar and Praveen Kumar among the first to gain the spotlight and win at the nationals in 1984.
In 2000, Arif was honoured with the Dronacharya Award, and a year later, another of his students, Pullela Gopichand, became the second Indian to win the All-England Open. Arif’s tutelage also produced more international stars like Saina Nehwal and Jwala Gutta. Nehwal won the Olympic bronze medal in 2012, while Gutta is a multiple Commonwealth Games medalist.
In 2012, Arif was conferred with the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian honour, for his more than four decades of contribution to badminton.
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