KOCHI: Pakistani cadet judoka Amina Toyada counts Japanese numerals ‘ichi-ni-san-shi’ faster than ‘ek-do-teen’ in Urdu. Asked if she knows more, she scrambles for words. She could only muster ‘salam alaikum’. On further prompting, she mutters two more words: “Kya hal hai” (how do you do) and “shukriyah” (thank you).
The 17-year-old is not at fault for not knowing the basic things that would’ve come naturally to any Pakistani teen. She was born in Japan to Japanese mother Keiko and Pakistani father Ali Liyakath.
She has visited her father’s place — Hazara in north-east Pakistan only once. Apart from bloodline, her connection to Pakistan is not strong. Amina was sitting on her haunches on the practice mat, fighting back tears after she had lost in the third round of the 57kg category.
When Express approached, like a true fighter she brought a smile on her face. As the conversation progressed, faint smile made way for a whole hearted one. Holder of dual citizenship, Amina was eligible to represent Pakistan.
A student of Shukutoku High School in Tokyo, she knew her chances to represent Japan were slim. “My family got in touch with the Pakistan federation because in Japan, it’s too competitive,” she said in broken English. Eventually, a Japanese official had to intervene as translator. Amina’s father moved to Japan more than two decades ago in search of job. Currently a driver, he had elder daughter Mariya enrolled in a judo class. Amina started after watching her sister. “I started training at the age of five and began playing for Pakistan a year ago.”
Amina is free to play for her father’s country now. But this won’t be easy once she crosses 20. As per Japanese rules, after turning 20, dual passport holders must relinquish one passport. Amina has no doubt what she wants. “The next Olympics is in Tokyo. I would be happy to represent Pakistan in my mother’s place.”
Meanwhile, Japan bagged pole position in the Asian Cadet Championship with five gold, three silver and two bronze. Korea are second with four gold, one silver and four bronze. India are eighth with one silver and four bronze.