FALLS ON SPORTING LEGENd
FIRST WON THE MOMBASA RESIDENT TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS
AS A 16-YEAR-OLD SCHOOL BOY AND WENT ON TO WIN THE
TITLE FOR 25
STRAIGHT YEARS - EARNING HIM THE NAME ‘KING
OF MOMBASA COURTS’
the sun sets on a legend, it becomes incredibly
difficult to find the exact words to describe the
task is made more difficult when the icon is a
Karim was a great tennis, cricket and volleyball
tennis became Karim's main focus, he did
equally well in almost all the games he took
was debate whether Karim might not have even
been a better cricketer than a tennis player
had he concentrated on that game.
the short time Karim played cricket, he played
in 1957 and captained the Mombasa Jaffery
Sports Club for seven seasons and hit 18 first
tennis remained his first choice and with
business demanding more of his time, Karim
left cricket and volleyball to concentrate on
first won the Mombasa Resident Tennis
Championships crown as a 16 year school boy
and went on to win the title for 25 straight
years, earning him the name "The King of
icon: Yusuf Karim was an out-
standing tennis, cricket and volleyball player.
some point he ran out of opponents and found himself
facing his own sixteen year old son, Aarif, the eldest
son in 1977 to win his 25th year (silver jubilee) in
one of the finals.
1961, Karim decide to try his skill in Nairobi
on the unfamiliar murram courts at the Nairobi Open
caused an immediate sensation when as an unseeded
player he beat the holder and top seed, Ron Harris in
the first round.
progress in the tourney became the focus of all
attention but unfortunately he lost in the
realised that murram courts were alien to his style of
play and henceforth pertained to the cement court with
which he was familiar.
played several exhibition matches against world class
players like Huge Stewart, Donald Dell, Owen Williams
and Billy Knight, giving all of them a run for their
continued victories in Mombasa
soon became a favourite topic of speculation among the
Coasts sports fans.
Every year people gathered at the
Mvita Tennis Courts to see if Karim can do it again
speculation turned to: "Can't any one stop
Nobody could although many tried.
the courts, Karim was always a deceptively
easy-looking player, always calm and unruffled and
despite his strong physique rarely employed power
most difficult opponents were players who employed the
same style as himself - control and placing.
hard hitting players were the easiest for him to
however regretted not having had proper coaching,
having had to learn all about the game by himself.
believe that had Karim been properly coached, he would
certainly have made a world mark and
may well have had a
champion in her sports honours list.
available from a voluminous file indicate that Yusuf
Karim lived at a different time from the latter day
letters, newspaper cuttings, receipts and invitation
cards among other literature all attest to an
individual who desired to keep records for posterity's
the newspaper clippings that recorded Karim's
exploits, one might be forgiven for imagining that
they are the same article.
For 25 years beginning
1951, the newspapers reported the same fixation:
"Karim wins Kenya Coast Tennis Open."
passion for letters was unprecedented.
Never the one
to miss a chance to put his thoughts on paper, Karim
would remember to put in writing his appreciations,
reminders, requests and information on any varied
topic he deemed was important.
one such correspondence in 1952, Karim thanks the
Railway Asian Institute for the kind hospitality and
fine reception the latter accorded to their Mombasa-based club, The Ithna-Asheri Sports Club, during
their visit to Nairobi
for a sports encounter.
belief in sportsmanship and fair play is captured in a
prose he wrote in 1952 where he defines sportsmanship
as "the right spirit in which a man should take
part in any sport, or play the game.
Thus rather be a
sportsman and make your name famous than, than be an 'unsportsman'
and leaving a poor impression on the public
conviction in fair played is attested by his words:
"... It goes without saying that a real
sportsman will never dream of cheating in a game, or
taking any unfair advantage over his opponent.
wants keen competition and fair play.
"And yet he will
always be generous to his foe.
"He would rather give
away a point than claim an advantage even though he
may do so without breaking the rule of the game."
Pereira, a renowned sportsman himself and who is a
director of Freight Forwarders, and had played with
Karim in cricket and tennis evokes Yusuf Karim as an
excellent sportsman who ruled the tennis circuit like
the proverbial colossus.
was an excellent tennis player and a good cricket
batsman; always smiling and advocated for players to
shake hands after playing one another.
unbeatable as a tennis player for 25 straight years.
rare feat indeed!"
Shretta, a Nairobi-based lawyer whose brother Nalin
also battled it out with Karim on the courts during
their tennis-playing days and who passed away almost
at the same time as the tennis great, recalls a good
hard court player and friend who was immensely hard to
contributed a lot to tennis in the Coast and everybody
looked up to him for direction in matters pertaining
"He is the greatest hard court player the
country has ever produced and he should be remembered
so," says Yashvin Shretta who himself was one of
the top tennis players in Kenya.
he retired from tennis in 1977 aged 42, Karim looking
every inch the remarkable athlete he had been; 195
pounds on a 5'11" frame, passed the baton to his
son Aasif who went on to represent the national tennis
team and went on to participate in the Davies Cup
tournament in 1988.
also captained the national cricket team where he
played in three World Cups; 1996, 1999 and 2003.
many fathers and sons have played for their country's
national tennis and cricket teams?
as chairman of Aristocrats, he joined staff of
Aristocrats Insurance Brokers a firm run by his son
Aasif, for their 2008 Christmas party, little was it
known that it would be the 'last supper' between the
late Karim and personnel who loved him.
wheelchair-bound due to a debilitating ailment but
nevertheless alert and active in business until his
last day, running a sports shop for over 50 years, the
positive effects resultant of his strong sporting
background through his towering physical presence were
Karim in later life.
when he passed away on the morning of Wednesday March
18, 2009, all the country's leading dailies, like they
reported his many triumphs during the years he was
unassailable on the tennis court, carried the news.
Davies, the proprietor of
was Yusuf's tennis team manager during an
international outing in Cairo
in the 70's.
did not interact much with Yusuf after I managed him
alongside Nalin Shretta amongst others, because he was
based in Mombasa, but reports then indicated that he
ruled the roost down at the Coast," reminisces
the grand old man of tennis.
Karim emigrated to
in 1937 at the age of two.
Records indicate that he
married Miss Nargisbai Mohamed Abdulla Khimji of
Dar es Salaam
on June 10, 1960 at the Khoja Shia Ithna Asheri Jamath
in Dar es Salaam
unsung hero in the family's success from Yusuf to the
children is the mother Nargis, who was married to
Yusuf for 49 years (10/6/1960).
played the background matriarchal role of supporter
and backer of her family, and as said, behind any
man's/ family success is the lady of the house.
spoken to, Aasif, the second who has also been a
sports icon in Kenya, regards his father also as his
role model and says that:
"My personal glory and
fame locally and internationally was mainly a
'beneficiary' to all that I achieved as the real
benefactor for all the accolades internally was my
father, who did not get the opportunity at
international level amongst other things."
gave all of us all the opportunities in sports and
opened the door for all three brothers to earn a
degree in the USA
and play tennis at the highest level in college.
Singh, who played cricket with Karim during their
youthful days remembers the late as a great sportsman
was privileged to have played cricket with Karim.
was an excellent cricket player and a great batsman.
"How I wished he plied his trade in Nairobi
as well where he would have raised the standards of
Shah, former captain of the
cricket team who played against Yusuf in the 1950's,
"Yusuf was a great tennis and
cricket player in the 1950's, although his first
choice was tennis."
would be a befitting tribute if a road or stadium was
named after Karim in
or a state accolade awarded in his honour to
commemorate his contribution to sports in the country.
dream was to see a sports academy established for the
disadvantaged or those who wanted to go further with
sports as their career.
is survived by wife in Mombasa, three children and eight grandchildren.
Uganda, Aasif lives in
and Altaf lives in Orlando
a humble beginning, the couple managed to get all
their three children educated in the USA, taking the next generation to a new level where all
the three sons have done proud to their parents'
tennis club, where he won his 25 straight years of
tournament, (probably a world record), will have a
"celebration ceremony" on 1/5/09 at 7.30 pm.
his well-wishers or those associated with him are
welcome or send your correspondence to:
Parvana wrote from Toronto, Canada.
'The King of the Concrete Court' is no
For over a quarter century in the fifties and the sixties Yusuf Karim ruled the concrete tennis courts of Kenya as the undefeated singles
Many dared him and all of them without an exception, failed to dethrone
He was the uncrowned King and remained so for
almost a quarter of a generation.
Yusuf Karim was a gentle giant.
He had the most captivating smile.
He was was not only a pretty face but had a physique to go with
The image of this great sports personality of Mombasa stalking his pray on the many playing surfaces in Mombasa in those good old days is seared in my
He was a great batsman and also a rock solid volleyball player in the traditional
The fifties and sixties saw a series of very interesting and exciting cricket tournaments played at the Coast.
There was the tussle to win the big Sheerin Cup and also the huge Khataw Cup and there were some very tense and exciting moments during these games played between the giants of that era that included the Coast Gymkhana, The Agakhan Sports Club, The Hatim Karimjee Sports Club and
of - course the Ithnashri Sports Club that was proudly captained and ably led - by none other than Yusuf Karim - to some great nail biting finishes.
Yusuf had a very special and somewhat endearing gait when walking which added to his personality in some mysterious way.
He had many centuries under his belt by the time he hung up his batting gloves.
I believe that at one point during the height of his cricket career, Yusuf was made an offer to play county cricket in the UK at that time, an offer that he obviously turned down with solid reasons.
Yusuf Karim was almost an
automatic choice to play for Coast Asians against the Coast Europeans - an annual cricket festival in Mombasa and very popular one with both the whites and the browns.
It used to be played at the Mombasa Sports Club's cricket ground over a long
This single event was the highlight of the cricket calendar for the year as it paraded some of the best of the best in that sport at the Coast.
Yusuf almost literally stood head over shoulders above a good many
Yusuf was for a while an institution unto himself as far as tennis is concerned and he inspired many youngsters to emulate
him ... and for him, charity began at home for almost all his sons took after him and carved a name for themselves in the world of cricket and tennis nationally as well as on the international front - Davis Cup
I recall seeing Yusuf in action at a number of tennis tournaments at The Mvita Tennis Club that I suspect was his favourite place.
I could not afford the entrance ticket to such events and so I had to be more "resourceful" to some degree and this is the reason why the Mvita Club will have probably spent some more money in repairing its fences after such
Today, the centre court at The Mvita Tennis Club is deserted.
The clapping and the cheering of the spectators that once spurred Yusuf to dozens of victories has suddenly given way to a deathly silence which will now reign that court where Yusuf once reigned as its
For death with its icy hands has tamed that
The Lion sleeps tonight as death has proven once again that it can defeat anyone at any place at
Yusuf Karim the humble and a true son of the Kenyan Coast is no more.
I wish to express my sincere condolences to the wife and sons of the Late Star and also to his surving brothers Hussein, Sultan and
"polez" are also going out to Late Yusuf's many nephews and nieces and the many other members of the family where-ever they may be.
It is a rather difficult time not only for them but for me as I had great admiration for Marhum Yusuf and he was also one of my role models.
May Allah SWT rest his soul in peace and give the strength to all the bereaved that they may bear this everlasting separation with courage because now the 'King' has left the court never to return.
I humbly request those who knew marhum Yusuf to remember him in their own special ways with a small
Reading through the
number of tributes to this great son of Mombasa, a sports person extra
ordinary, I believe the befitting tribute is to name a street in
Mombasa after Late Yusuf Karim.
I do hope the relevant
authorities will do justice to our great son in doing so.
He was a great
inspiration to all of us who had the opportunity to follow his success
through the news media.