Promising sprinter Al Naim Sheikh has turned into a day labourer, working on agricultural fields in Khulna as his bread and butter has been snatched away by the coronavirus pandemic.
Naim, who won gold medals in 200m and 400m sprint events in junior athletics championships in 2018, has been forced to work on jute and paddy fields to earn a living for his five-member family, which includes a sick father and a mentally challenged elder sister.
However, Naim is still continuing his training with the hope of returning for the national athletics championships and he hopes to repeat the feat of the 2018 meet and draw attention of services teams to get a government job.
"As a contractual athlete of Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC), I used to help my father with solid financial support but now I can't do so since losing the job last year. I also used to earn Tk 500 to 600 for each match when I used to play on hire, but that opportunity also went away due to coronavirus. So I was not left with any option but to work on jute and paddy fields five to six days a week. I earn Tk 200 to 250 each day," Naim told The Daily Star over phone from Khulna's Fulbaria Thana yesterday.
"My father also works as a farmer on others' fields but sometimes he can't work due to illness. I am buying our daily essentials through my income as we have some rice at home," explained Naim, who had also won silver medal in 100m sprint in 2018.
Naim was hoping for some monetary support from the Bangladesh Athletics Federation and the sports ministry, but he was disappointed after not receiving any support from either institution.
"I saw on television that the federation and sports ministry would help athletes and I was hoping to get some help from them but I didn't get any," said Naim.
The 18-year-old could not attend the 2019 junior athletics championships due to a hamstring injury. After recovering from the injury, he continued training to participate in the 2020 edition of the junior meet which was scheduled to take place in June but later got cancelled due to coronavirus outbreak.
"My target was to win three gold medals in the 2020 meet but the meet did not take place due to coronavirus. I want to participate in the next championship whenever that takes place. I am preparing myself accordingly as I follow a training schedule prepared by my coach. I am working on the field in the morning but training in the afternoon," Naim said. "I am hopeful of producing good results in the next junior national meet because I have improved my timing."
Though Naim is temporarily taken up a farmer's work due to the hardship caused by the pandemic, the youngster is eager to get a job in services teams by his impressing in upcoming junior meets.