Naseem’s First Visit to Yemen in 1993 Fond Memories [Archives:1997/43/Sports]

October 27 1997

Prinmce Naseem Salem Ali, the WBO and IBF featherweight champion, visited Yemen in December, 1993, upon an invitation by president of the Yemeni Olympic Committee, Dr. Mohammed Ahmed Al-Kabab. Prince Naseem visited several governorates including Sana’a, Aden, Al-Beidah and Taiz. At that time I was in charge of organizing the program of the visit. Naseem’s father, Mr. Salem Ali went to the Ministry of Youth and Sport, asking the authorities to help his son Naseem, who had been an amateur boxer in Sheffield, UK, to participate in the Barcelona Olympic games to represent Yemen. He brought some video tapes of Naseem’s matches, but nobody paid any attention to him at that time. We as usual want a ready-made champion. Naseem was not an international boxing champion as he is now. So he was not given the chance to participate. Mr. Salem Ali could not meet the Minister of Youth and had to return to England. When I came back from a training course in Germany, I learnt that a boxer living in England wanted to represent Yemen in any international or Arab championship. His name is Naseem. I met his father in July,1993 at the Ministry of Youth. He told me that Naseem adopted boxing as a profession. The Minister of Youth agreed to the visit of Naseem to Yemen as a boxer showing promise. Naseem had no international title at that time and his name was hardly known in Sheffield (Naseem’s birthplace). The Minister of Youth issued his directives to the authorities to pay for the tickets. We began a battle with the routine at the Ministry of Finance. If it were not for the patriotism of Mr. Ahmed Hussein Al-Basha, former Deputy Minister of Finance, we could not have obtained the tickets. Mr. Ahmed Al-Basha directed the Ministry of Youth to grant six tickets to Naseem, his father, his brothers and his coach. Some arrangements had been made and I arranged the program of the visit by fax. I informed them of the arrival date. The Secretariat of the Presidency provided us with a Mercedes to take the champion and his family. Naseem was surprised of the big attention which had been paid to him.
When President Ali Abdullah Saleh was informed of Naseem’s insignificant achievements at that time, he directed that he should be provided with all the necessary help. In those days, Naseem was taking strides towards international fame. He played six professional matches. President Ali Abdullah Saleh received Naseem at the presidential palace and presented him a $12,000 golden Rolex watch. Naseem Said, “the interest and care of Mr. President motivated me to continue fighting towards world championship as I promised him.” I suggested that Naseem should visit Taiz before Aden since the journey to Aden takes 8 hours. In Aden, Mr. Ahmed Al-Dhulai’ received the Prince who stayed four days. Then he moved to Radaa – his father’s birthplace – and after that returned to Sana’a. Naseem said during his return, “the interest and care I got from people who do not know me made me want to snatch the world champion title.” Naseem made a statement to the British press and praised the President for his caring about the youth in Yemen. I translated some articles into Arabic for some local Newspapers. Naseem got the European championship title in May, 1994, and offered his victory as a gift to the leader and the people of Yemen.
Naseem played in one of his most important matches with the Argentine boxer Sergio Lendo in Scotland. Many people attend the match and next to me was Mr. Hussein Al-Amri, the Yemeni Ambassador in London, who came from London to Glasgow. I told Naseem in Sheffield that it would take time for him to be a world champion. He replied saying that “you will see Jamal, I will snatch the title this year.” Actually, Naseem defeated Steve Robinson by delivering a knockout in the eighth round before 20,000 spectators and that was in Cardiff in August, 1995. So the war of title snatching had started and Prince Naseem has become a king in world boxing.