Imran and Irfan Karim – A pair of Khoja identical twins from Mombasa have been making their mark in the sports world with their unique performance as professional badminton players.
Imran and Irfan Karim, a pair of identical twins, were born on 20th December 2002 and are currently pursuing their education at the Jaffery Academy, Mombasa. They are a part of the Stars Badminton Academy in Mombasa and compete in singles and doubles tournaments and are identical in not just their appearance, but also in their playing style. The only thing that distinguishes the brothers on the badminton court is that Imran is right-handed while Irfan is left-handed.
The 17-year-olds are multi-talented as they have featured in multiple sports disciplines such as football, athletics, cricket, tennis and badminton. They opted to focus on badminton, where they have emerged as some of the top Kenyan players in the last three years.
Emergence as Professional Badminton Players
According to Imran, he was never a badminton guy. He was always a tennis player. “I vividly remember the turning point in my badminton journey. I participated in a tournament which had badminton and did not have tennis. My school sports teacher encouraged me to have a go at badminton, so I decided to give a try. My first match was against one of the top players at that time. I gave a good fight and lost by four points which motivated me to train better.” He says.
The brothers state that they experience a unique connection amongst themselves which helps them to overcome challenges. As they have grown up together, they are familiar with each other as they have been training and playing together. “We have been paired together in doubles since we were young and we have mastered the skills for long” Imran adds.
The pair were the youngest players in the National Badminton Team that were to represent their country in the African Youth Games held in Algeria in 2018, however, a week before the games, the Kenyan badminton team pulled out of the competition due to lack of funds.
They also represented Kenya in 2018 Youth Olympic qualifiers held in Kampala, Uganda where they were knocked out at quarter-final stage.
Apart from these, both the brothers have won many singles and doubles local tournaments.
Inspiration and their Future
“I admire world elite player Lee Chong Wei and having met top African players, the future is bright” says Imran who also enjoys photography, videography, travelling and design. According to him, one is never too young or old to play, and one should not fear in trying different things because that is how one learns to play and grows. “Keep fighting. Remember, you are your only competition” he adds.
Irfan says, “It was a good lesson learnt in Uganda, where we realized that we have a lot of potential in badminton. Our coach found it necessary to have us play together, and since then we have fully focused on badminton and stayed as partners.” His strength is the endurance and the never-say-die attitude that he possesses along with the positivity that he maintains all the time. Irfan also mentions, “Like my brother, Lee Chong Wei is my favourite player, but I enjoy watching another world-class player Lin Dan because he is a left-handed like me.”
Their coach Alex Babu says, “The siblings have a unique fighting spirit and featuring in many competitions will them more confidence.”
Effect of Covid-19 on their training
Just like any other area of human life, the Covid-19 pandemic has also affected their training routines. When asked about the effect of the virus on their training, Imran said, “We hope to regain our shape soon. We have gained a lot of weight in the past four months we have not been training due to Covid-19.” He further adds, “Our coach Alex Babu has been working out to see we regain our fitness before the resumption of sports activities.”