THEY have lived in Scotland almost all of their lives and run a successful business in the shadow of the country’s national football stadium.
But now, Glasgow restaurateurs Qureshi Ayub “Chico” Mohammed and Ali Shan Muzahir have received a late call up to represent Pakistan in the Commonwealth Games.
The pair, who were born in Pakistan, but moved to Scotland when they were children, are to don the green and white team colours to compete in the lawn bowls championship in the Glasgow Games this summer.
While one of their team mates will have to travel 4,000 miles to compete, the pair’s restaurant is just a two-minute stroll from Glasgow’s Hampden Park, where the closing ceremony of the Games will take place.
Mr Muzahir, 55, from Clarkston, East Renfrewshire, said: “I was over the moon when I found out. It’s everyone’s dream to be asked to represent your country. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
As lawn bowls is not a popular sport in Pakistan, the country’s ruling body were struggling to find a team for Glasgow.
At last year’s World Cup in Australia, a Scottish coach recommended Mr Muzahir and Mr Mohammed, who have been playing bowls for more than 20 years after being introduced to the sport by their business’s bank manager, who convinced them to sponsor the club where he played.
Both have coaching badges and Mr Muzahir has won championships and successfully competed at District level.
They will be accompanied by student Muhammad Shahzad, who is studying for a PhD in biochemistry at Glasgow University and took up the sport just three years ago, and Rana Maqsood, who will travel from Pakistan. The team will be the first bowlers from Pakistan to compete in the Commonwealth Games.
Mr Mohammed, also 55, from Netherlee on Glasgow’s south side, said: “It was beyond our wildest dreams. When the Pakistan Lawn Bowls Federation phoned us, we thought they were going to ask us to do some coaching. But when they asked us to play, we were stunned. I couldn’t sleep all night.”
He added: “We are that close to Hampden we can take part in the closing ceremony and still be back at our work that night.
“I think they only picked us because they know we can’t claim any travelling expenses.”
The pair are joint owners of the Alishan Restaurant in Glasgow’s Mount Florida – a favourite haunt of First Minister Alex Salmond, who once rounded off a Scottish Government cabinet meeting by taking all his ministers there for dinner.
The news has delighted fellow members at the two clubs where they are members, the Glasgow Indoor Bowling Club in Mount Florida and the Clarkston Bowling and Tennis Club.
Clarkston chairman Mark Weir said: “The entire membership is delighted for them. To have two members competing at international level is fantastic.
“They have promised us a Pakistan team jersey, which we will frame and hang in the bar for all time.”
Zaker Mahmood of the Pakistan Lawn Bowls Federation said: “They are good players and will hold their own. We are not saying we’re going to win gold medals, but we’ll give it a good bash.”