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17 November 2017 / 27. Safar 1439

The KARIM of the crop!

Posted on Mon, 2017-10-30 14:36

How an inspiring Khoja Family cemented their place in Kenyan History

Our Khoja heritage is one of great success and The World Federation is proud to celebrate achievements from people, young or old, within our community. Recently, an entire Khoja family were recognised for their incredible accomplishment, and this is their story.  

There are many tales of sporting greats who have risen from humble beginnings to legendary status, but rarely does a single family forge a legacy so impressive that it spans across three generations, creates three sporting icons, but carries only one unmistakable name.

The story of the Karims’ – who rose from a close-knit Khoja community to create their own sporting dynasty – is beyond compare.

When Yusuf Karim was born in 1935, his family and community could never have imagined the sporting legacy that was about to unfold and that would be associated with the family name for years to come.

The Karim family originated from a small region in Western India, in the state of Gujarat called Kutch. Yusuf eventually relocated to Kenya with his family in 1937 and grew up in the coastal city of Mombasa, Africa.

It was important for the Karim family to connect with other members of their Ithna Asheri community, and as Mombasa slowly gained more importance as a premier trade and commercial hub, more Ithna Asheris gravitated to the city. The strong sense of community and belonging helped strengthen the family's Islamic faith, which played a huge and important role in building the personalities of Yusuf and his son, Aasif Karim.

Above: 25 years unbeaten tennis champ in Mombasa, Kenya. Yusuf Karim

Yusuf quickly developed a passion for sports. After completing his studies, Yusuf began trading in sports equipment, with the help of his five brothers and three sisters. A short-but-prolific cricketing journey followed before Yusuf turned his attention to tennis. An astonishing 25 Mombasa Tennis Open titles followed; the last of which Yusuf sealed with a victory against his eldest son, Aasif, in the finals. The sport was well in truly in the Karims’ blood.

Then came Aasif Karim.

Much like his father, Aasif too flourished in both tennis and cricket. Still, to this day, Aasif is the only Kenyan to Captain his country professionally in both forms of sports – at the Tennis Davis Cup and the Cricket World Cup. As a young man, Aasif dominated the local tennis circuit and won countless competitions as a junior. As he grew older, he switched his attention to cricket. He went on to make his international debut for the Kenyan national side on the 1980 tour of Zimbabwe and, with his first-ever international delivery, impressively claimed the wicket of skipper Duncan Fletcher.

"When the Kenyan sporting folklore is told, Aasif Karim will certainly occupy a special place due to his multi-talented accomplishment. Karim is an accomplished businessman publisher of one of the longest surviving sports publications, which is a testament to his focus and ambition. A straight-shooting personality, sometimes a bit of a hardliner, if stubborn, rarely he would change course once he has made up his mind on a matter." - Isaack Omulo Okoth, Sports Editor. 

Above: Still, to this day, Aasif is the only Kenyan to Captain his country professionally in both forms of sports – at the Tennis Davis Cup and the Cricket World Cup.

Aasif went on to feature regularly for the Kenya national side throughout the next 19 years before retiring after the 1999 World Cup in England. Little did Aasif know that his greatest sporting moment was yet to come.

Three years on, during his evening prayers on the 16th of December 2002, Aasif Karim received a phone call from Kenya’s chairman of selectors for International Cricket to come out of retirement. Having been convinced to join the team at the age of 39, he was on his way to perform on cricket’s biggest stage for the third time. Fresh out of retirement, Aasif still managed to catch the eye of the cricketing world with a staggering performance against eventual champions, Australia.

Although Kenya eventually lost the match by five wickets – no mean feat against an Australia side that featured the likes of Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Ricky Ponting – Aasif finished with near-unbelievable bowling figures that earned him the ‘man of the match’ award and cemented his place in the history books of Kenyan cricket.

One of the best spells of bowling in World Cup Cricket.

The left-arm spinner bowled 50 containing deliveries, giving away just 7 runs and taking three crucial wickets – including that of Australian cricket legend Ricky Ponting. Four years after captaining Kenya at the previous tournament, Aasif’s performances helped his country to defy the odds and reach the semi-final stages with a never to be seen again bowling spell of 8.2 overs, 6 maidens, 7 runs and 3 wickets.

Nowadays, Aasif is a respected insurance broker. In 2014, Aasif and his wife, Nazneen created the Safinaz Foundation in honour of their parents. The focus of the foundation is to promote sport in Kenya by hosting sporting events and providing equipment – and even scholarships where possible – to potential future stars.

Although his sporting career may long-since be over, Aasif’s legacy will live on, not only through his own achievements but through those of his son, Irfan Karim, who has quickly established himself as a permanent member of the Kenya national cricket side.

The Grandson of Yusuf, Irfan has now completed higher education at the University of Loughborough and continues to show signs of promise in the early stages of his career. Aasif has already hinted about a future contract in the Indian Premier League, but regardless, Kenyan eyes will be watching closely as the next chapters of the Karim story unfold.

Above: Youngest Kenyan to score an ODI century. Irfan Karim

Between Yusuf, his sons and grandson -  the Karim family have, and still are, dominating Kenyan Tennis and Cricket, leaving a legacy that will be spoken of in Kenyan sporting folklore for the rest of time.

Above: Mr Aasif Karim and his family, presented with his book "The Karims - A Sporting Dynasty" by Paul Tergat, Chairman of Kenya National Olympic Committee.

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