The 56-year old Zakir Hossain came to the spotlight when he won a bronze medal in a taekwondo event during the recently-concluded Banganbadhu Bangladesh Games. Zakir, a mathematics high school teacher, showcased his master of the game against all the odds and jointly won the bronze medal in the senior men’s (32+ age) poomsae event on April 6. Thus the athlete from Dinajpur District Sports Association became the country's eldest taekwondo medalist during the 10-day meet. Zakir recently talked to The Daily Sun about his journey to the sport that he loved so much.
Here are the excerpts from the interview:The Daily Sun: How do you feel when you play with athletes who are half of your age?
Zakir Hossain: I have been living at Suihari in Dinajpur Sadar and have been working as an assistant teacher of mathematics at Tafiuddin Memorial High School. My 27-year teaching experience says teachers and students must be friends with each other. As a taekwondo learner, I feel other learners are my friends. I strictly told them not to call me uncle; just treat me as a friend.
The Daily Sun: How did you get involved in taekwondo?
Zakir Hossain: I got inspiration from two incidents. I was six or seven years old in 1971. I can recall the sound of the LMG gun. My family fled to India when the Pakistan Army invaded my village. After the end of the liberation war, we returned to the village. But we had a new problem now -- the emergence of robbers. With time, the robbery increased at an alarming number. It instigates me to become physically strong to protect my villagers. Thus I started to find out ways of self-defence.
I joined a local martial art club named Kalitola Club in 1983 where one of my friends practised Shito-Ryu karate. I learned some moves there. I came to taekwondo in 2009. I got my inspiration from Md Ershad Ali and the taekwondo federation general secretary Mahmudul Islam Rana.
The Daily Sun: Have you ever competed in any national competition?Zakir Hossain: I became a student of Dinajpur taekwondo martial art academy in 2009 and took part in the first time in the national championship in 2011. I got bronze there. It was my first medal. Bangladesh Games medal is my second national medal.
The Daily Sun: Where were you in the last 10 years?
Zakir Hossain: I wasn't in taekwondo for a long time from 2011 to 2019. There were different reasons behind it -- family, workplace, society etc. My weight increased from 66 kg to 82 kg. I also suffered from heart disease at that time and a lot of money was spent for my recovery. However, my wife and lone daughter motivate me to return here after the recovery. I return and make a new start in 2019. The Games is my first competition after this long break.
The Daily Sun: Do you still face any social barrier?
Zakir Hossain: Yes, I’m still facing it. This was one of the reasons behind my leaving taekwondo. People surrounding me have always been making bad remarks about it. But I've resumed taekwondo keeping aside all these things.
The Daily Sun: What is your aim?
Zakir Hossain: My aim in life is to become a grandmaster. World Taekwondo Federation provides it. An athlete has to go through some processes to achieve this title. BTF will hold a camp regarding this process soon. No Bangladeshis have become grandmasters and hopefully, I can meet all the criteria.
The Daily Sun: What is the secret of your fitness?
Zakir Hossain: I strictly follow a balanced diet chart. I eat food containing enough protein and vitamins, and I try to avoid sugar. About physical activities, I spend at least three-four hours in practice. The most important element of my fitness is Yoga. I've mastered 90 percent of yoga exercises; can't do some particular exercises due to my age. Yoga makes me flexible.
The Daily Sun: Do you have any favourite taekwondo athletes in the world?
Zakir Hossain: Jet Li; his actions and moves have a great mix of taekwondo. I watch his action movies. I try to follow him. Another one is Jackie Chan, he is also very good. Bruce Lee is above all, he is a master. But I follow Jet Li. In Bangladesh, Rana sir and Ershad sir are my favourites. I learned a lot from them.