Pakistan is probably not a country most people would immediately pick out as a hotbed of rugby enthusiasm, but for four members of the same family now living in the UAE, it’s been a life-long obsession.
While cricket is the sport of choice in Nanu Niazi’s home city of Islamabad, he admits he was always a little different.
He was actually a football player as a youngster, before one of his cousins “dragged” him along to a rugby sevens tournament.
Nanu never looked back since then and even went on to gain international honours for Pakistan.
The 28-year-old is actually a dual code Pakistani rugby international and two of his three cousins have all played internationally.
Nanu, who has lived in the UAE for 19 years, is the youngest of the foursome, with brothers Bilal, 36, Azmat, 34, and Shiraz, 29, all moving here in the last seven years.
“I used to play soccer back home but my cousins dragged me along to play rugby, as they played, and I really enjoyed it,” said the centre come winger.
“I love rugby, especially sevens as it’s more skilful. Rugby’s not that popular back home but I was never into cricket, there’s not enough happening.”
Incredibly, all four of the Niazi family have played at Sport360° UAE Premiership club Xodus Wasps this season.
Nanu was the first to play for Wasps soon after the club was established in 2010, and he returned the childhood favour his cousins had dealt him by steadily recruiting more members of the family to join the Wasps brotherhood.
“It was my idea to recruit my cousins,” said Nanu.
“We all played for the same team back home and I thought why not do it here too.”
It’s a familial bond that has carried them all the way to the international stage.
“Azmat, Shiraz and I have all played together for the Pakistani national team and I also played sevens and rugby league for the national team too,” added Nanu.
He played against the UAE rugby league side last year and is still involved with the national team.
“We only play a few games of union and league a year, but we will be playing rugby league against the UAE Falcons in January or February next year for the Tariq Niazi Cup.”
It has been a disappointing season on the pitch for Wasps and, unfortunately, the bad news continued off the pitch when the Dubai-based Niazi clan was broken up at the end of the Premiership campaign, with Nanu, Shiraz and Azmat deciding to leave the club in the last few weeks.
Wasps have always prided themselves on being a rugby family though, and having had three brothers and a cousin pulling on the yellow and black jersey certainly confirms that.
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