During a childhood spent retrieving stray balls on a golf course near his slum in Dhaka, Siddikur Rahman never even got to hear about the Olympics, let alone dream of competing in them.
“When I was starting out, the Olympics was just not something that I knew anything about,” recalls the man who will be Bangladesh’s flag-bearer at next month’s opening ceremony in Rio de Janiero.
“It’s only really because of my caddie, who is from Malaysia, that I came to appreciate quite how prestigious an event it. He told me how I would make history if I qualified, so then I got serious about it.” By finishing in the top 60 Olympic ranking list at last week’s cut-off point, the 31-year-old Siddikur became the first Bangladeshi to qualify automatically for the world’s biggest sporting event.
Bangladesh is the most populous country never to have won an Olympic medal.
In a country where cricket is king, the dearth of local participants means the Olympics have traditionally struggled to attract much interest. Coverage on the television and in newspapers is extremely limited. Siddikur’s history-making is even more noteworthy given his humble origins as the son of an autorickshaw driver who was brought up in one of the Bangladeshi capital’s teeming slum neighbourhoods. When he was 10, he landed a job ferreting out balls that had landed in the rough at
Dhaka’s prestigious Kurmitola Golf Club (KGC).