The Financial Express

Malek, the unsung hero of Chandpur who crossed English Channel in 1965

Abdul Malek’s parents house (inset) where he was born — FE Photos Abdul Malek’s parents house (inset) where he was born — FE Photos

This is the tale of an English Channel Crossing swimmer of Chandpur. This celebrated swimmer Abdul Malek was a bright star in the arena of sports in the district.

This brave and indomitable Malek crossed the English Channel within soa short time in 1965 and earned much honour and accolade at home and abroad. But now he has gone into almost oblivion in his home district Chandpur, let alone elsewhere in the country.

Sports lovers say and opine, 'Swimmer Malek is unsung and unknown to the present generation'. Day by day people are forgetting him totally.

Swimmer Malek has become actually so, mainly because of callousness and lack of proper initiatives by the District Sports Association. Recently his death anniversary passed off silently. None recalled him nor his contribution for the posterity. His family arranged a doa mahfil where a few swimmers attended.

He was well known to all as a celebrated athlete in Chandpur district till early 80's.Son of late Abdul Jalil Mia, Malek was born in 1938 of a respected Muslim family in Torpurchondi village- an outskirt of Chandpur Sadar , then a Sub Division. He had his early education at Chandpur Hasan Ali Govt High School and then attended Chandpur Govt College securing very good results.

As a famous athlete, he won many a laurel while he was a student in Chandpur. Then, he did B Com Honours and M Com at DU where he was regarded as an all -rounder for his outstanding performances in sports arena and so he won 'Blue' twice as a very successful athlete in 1959 and 1960 from the DU authority.

He was elected Sports Secretary three times in succession at Salimullah Muslim Hall Chhatra Sangsad Poll. He took part in Pak National Swimming Sports in 1957 and won a gold medal. In 1958, he took part in Asia Olympic Swimming Competition held in Tokyo.

In 1960, he created a national record by swimming 60 miles in National Swimming Competition in Dhaka National Swimming Pool. In 1962, he secured first position in the Long -distance Swimming Competition from Dhaka to Chandpur organised by Bangladesh Swimming Federation. In 1963, he took part in the World Long- Distance (33 miles) Swimming Competition in Italy and secured first position in Asia continent and 4th position in the whole World.

In 1964, he swam 35 miles in Chandpur Lake and emerged as a Swimming Hero to the people and sports lovers. In 1965, he secured the first position in the Long -Distance Swimming Competition that started from Narayanganj up to Chandpur organised by English Channel Association in East Pakistan.

Malek came out with flying colours by crossing the English Channel within so short a time( 3 hours and 42 minutes) in 1965 ''which was the shortest time that year for any swimmer to cross the English Channel'. It stunned all. It made him famous all over the world especially in the sports arena.

Then staying in London, Malek completed CA Degree and was appointed as Swimming Coach at Debarcantin London. In 1971, when the Liberation War started, despite his tremendous efforts, he failed to come back home in Chandpur to join the Liberation War. Then he, along with other freedom-loving Bangladeshi people was engaged in collecting money in London for the Liberation War and after independence he handed over that money to the Bangladesh Govt. He was a confirmed bachelor.

On February 17 in 1983, all of a sudden, at the age of 46, Malek died after massive heart attack in London. His body was brought to Chandpur on February28 and was laid to rest with due honor at his ancestral home the same day.

Following his death, a pall of gloom descended upon the whole town and his village.

Thousands of people including Sub Divisional officer, also President of Chandpur Sports Association Md Akter Hossain Khan (later Secretary, Biman and Parjatan Ministry ) attended his janaja. After his death, Chandpur Stadium Pavilion Bhavan was named as Malek Krira Bhavan which is now erasing and has faded mostly for lack of care and due to wears and tears for years together. Pedestrians seldom look at it.

Even, Malek's photo/ portrait is not available too in the pavilion so that the present sports men can see Malek. Strange enough that this pavilion bhavan is being used as District Shishu Academy office for the last few years, to the surprise of the sports lovers!

However, in recognition of his outstanding services in sports arena, Chandpur Foundation accorded him a posthumous reception along with celebrated artists Monirul Islam and Hashem Khan and another famous son of the district, BUET VC Md A Matin Patwary, all from Chandpur, at a simple ceremony on January 3 in 1986 on Chandpur Govt Mohila College premises. Since then, none has remembered Malek till today. Every year, his death anniversary comes and passes off silently , none recalls him, let alone Chandpur District Sports Association and so the present generation and sports men are remaining quite in the dark about the saga of this celebrated and English Channel crossing swimmer A Malek.

Talking to this correspondent at home, Malek's younger brothers- AKM Badsha Mia, also a renowned swimmer of Chandpur and Dr Abdur Rashid( Ex-Civil Surgeon, Munshiganj) have regretted saying ''Actually for want of proper initiatives, swimming hero Malek is now unsung and unknown to the people of Chandpur despite his glorious role during the turbulent days of the Liberation War in 1971 and also before (in Pakistan period)and after Bangladesh became Independent.

Contacted, District Sports Association's Secretary Golam Mostafa Babu has said, ''Very soon we'll do something in this regard after discussing Swimmer Malek's issue in the meeting with local MP Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni.''

The family members and veteran sports men -renowned swimmers - valiant freedom fighter Md Sanaullah, Rokonuzzaman Bhuiyan, Fatema Begum, Abul Kashem Saimun, Abdus Satter, Absaruddin, and some others have appealed to the Prime Minister and Sports Minister to take steps to name Chandpur District Stadium after country's noted swimmer Abdul Malek( who is also second to Munshiganj'sBrojen Das) and thus, uphold his glory and contributions to the present and future generation so that they may also be great like swimmer Malek.

Sports lovers are looking forward to its quick implementation.


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