Friday Aug 05, 2022
After setting a new Commonwealth Games record of 405 kg in the 109 kg-plus category, Pakistan's Muhammad Nooh Dastgir Butt, 25, looked around for the bronze medalist, India's Gurdeep Singh. The winner of Pakistan's first gold medal at these Games wasn't just being courteous for the camera, but rather looking for his friend to share their moment of glory, The Indian Express reported from Birmingham.
Much later, away from the public spotlight, the two would dance into the night, sharing their joy while listening to their favourite Sidhu Moosewala tunes in the background.
The two strongmen from the two Punjabs on either side of the India-Pakistan border had established a bond while competing against each other on the world circuit due to their shared musical tastes, culture, and mother tongue.
The lifters, who were born 250 kilometres apart in Pakistan's Gujranwala and Majri Rasulra village in Khanna district, have a long history.They may have been attempting to out-lift one other since their junior years, but they haven't let fierce competition ruin their friendship, the Indian news publication reported.
“Gurdeep and I have been very good friends. After the gold, I first congratulated Gurdeep and later we did a small celebration where we danced to Moosewala’s songs,” Nooh told The Indian Express.
Gurdeep expressed the same sentiment. “Nooh and I first met in junior championships six years ago and would share tips about diet. Conversing in Punjabi obviously helped our friendship,” he said.
In a report by Daily Dawn, however, Nooh was quoted as saying in a "mischievous tone" that he is from a Muslim country and doesn't dance.
The two athletes keep in touch even when they are not competing as in May of this year, when a concerned Nooh called Gurdeep.
“When I saw the news of Sidhu Moosewala’s death, I messaged Gurdeep to confirm. At my home gym, where I train, I played songs like Jatt Da Muqabla and the recently released Song 295 to set the tempo for my training,” says Nooh, who hails from a family of weightlifters.
Nooh had grown up hearing stories about his father, Ghulam Dastgir Butt, a 16-time Pakistan national champion, and his journeys throughout the world, as well as the friends he had established in what they were told was enemy territory.
He always mentioned India as a friendly country where Pakistani players were always welcomed. It did not fit the dominant narrative of animosity promoted by the media of the two states, which have fought multiple wars since Partition.
Butt Senior first came to India in 1987 to compete in the South Asian Federation Games in Kolkata, where he won a gold medal. He is overjoyed to receive a call from the other side of the border on the same day that his son won gold in a competition in which India got bronze.
Nooh also admires Olympic silver medalist Mirabai Chanu. "In addition to my father, I look up to Olympic silver medalist Mirabai Chanu." She is the torchbearer for South Asia, and the impact she has had on international weightlifting makes us proud as well."