Not many people who are missing both their arms are likely to dream about being able to play snooker, but one limbless legend from Pakistan is proving that it’s certainly possible.
Mohammad Ikram grew up learning how to perform what, for others, are simple tasks after being born without arms.
It was as he edged towards his teenage years, though, that he fell in love with snooker after visiting a local club in Samundri, near Faisalabad.
Without arms holding a cue is impossible, but after hours he used to spend time perfecting his unique method of flicking the balls across the baize with his mouth and chin – and learned he had a talent for it.
“When I was 10-12 years old, I used to go to the club and thought: ‘If I had arms I could have played this game’,” the 32-year-old told Al Jazeera.
“I kept thinking about it alone, so when the tables were empty I would try it with my mouth, and I learned the game.”
It gave Ikram so much confidence that, eventually, he plucked up the courage to ask the club’s management if he could take part in matches.
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“He would come and ask to be allowed to play. We looked at his arms and thought he couldn’t do it,” said Mian Usman, who works at Cue Master Snooker Club.
“He said he played with his mouth. He said: ‘Watch me play first’, so we watched and saw that he was actually very good, so we let him play.
“Sometimes he wins, sometimes he loses. He plays very well.”
Other players were stunned to see this young man without arms rock up and beat opponents who had a full compliment of limbs and benefited from the use of a cue.
Fellow snooker enthusiast Haseeb Nawaz said Ikram once won a tournament, which inspired others to cheer him on.
“We were stunned watching him play. So we started supporting him as a brother,” he said.
Snooker is something which brings Ikram joy, after he endured a tough childhood growing up with his disability in a poor village.
His parents could not provide much and lived in a mud hut outside the city. Their son never received a formal education.
But he found something in snooker that he was good at – and his mum Razia Bibi couldn’t be more proud.
“We couldn’t go there to see him play, but everyone is telling us that our son’s story has spread across the world – that he’s playing well and doing well,” she said.
“Everyone is very happy about it. We’re happier than anyone else because he’s our son.”
After finding his own passion against the odds, Ikram is hoping to use his story to encourage others to do the same.
“God didn’t give me arms, but gave me courage and I’ve used it to fulfil my ambition,” he said.
“So no-one should lose hope – follow your ambitions.”
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