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DHAKA: Bangladesh yesterday paid glowing tributes to Muhammad Ali with fans and admires flooding social networks with their emotions while Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called him “one of the greatest human beings” alongside the “greatest boxer” of all the time.
Thirty eight years ago Muhammad Ali had visited Bangladesh when the country conferred him with its honourary citizenship when he said “if I get kicked out of America, I have another home (in Bangladesh).”
“I love you Bangladesh, I love you Bangladesh, I love you all,” the boxing legend uttered as he bade goodbye, waving hands from the door of the aircraft during his departure after a five-day visit, which the country continued to cherish in subsequent days, years and decades.
Ali had scheduled his February 1978 Bangladesh tour along with his wife Veronica Ali when the boxing legend was visibly in an upsetting situation as he just lost his heavyweight title to Leon Spinks.
But tens of thousands of people had taken to the street to greet him as the greatest sport legend of all the time after he arrived while he greeted them back from an open-hooded jeep with his usual gesture as his eyes sparkled with wit and joy.
Millions of eyes were glued to the then black and white TV screens as the state-run BTV at that time aired his activities which included a “boxing match” at the then Dhaka Stadium.
A 12-year-old boy had “knocked him out” to huge cheers and laughs while the greatest boxer of all time in a mock gesture of defeat lied down in the ring conceding the defeat.
The five-day tour also took Ali to the world’s largest mangrove forest of the Sundarbans and the longest natural beach of Cox’s Bazar, northeastern scenic Sylhet and the hill district of Rangamati, which had appeared to have pleased the mind of the boxer who was visibly looking for ways to be refreshed for returning to the ring.
But the world recalls Ali not for his performance in the ring alone but also for his lifelong stance for justice and humanity and bravery to revolt against what he thought unjust, even at the cost of his career.
“His (Ali’s) name will live forever in the world,” President Abdul Hamid said in his message of condolence while public figures and sporting greats from across the globe mourned his death saying how the boxing champion influenced the contemporary world.
In a message sent from the Holy City of Makkah, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recalled the incredible performance of the three-time world heavyweight boxing champion in his career that spanned three decades.
“Mohammad Ali was one of the greatest human beings (as well) as he was always vocal to realise the rights of the exploited and oppressed people across the world,” the premier said.
Commentators in the international media were looking for words to list all his accomplishments while one of them said Ali was known to every villages in the every part of the world as she tried to reflect on his influence all over the world.
“Ali the Man was like no other. He saw the world clearly and then articulated it. He was the ultimate communicator; a skill that belied what he often joked was a lack of a natural intelligence coupled with a substandard education. Perhaps, but when it came to street smarts, he was but a genius.
The commentators recalled how on April 28, 1967, incumbent boxing champion Ali refused to be inducted into the US Army and was immediately stripped of his heavyweight title as a new Muslim, cited religious reasons for his decision to forgo military service.
Another commentary recalled that Ali preferred to be a Muslim, when only few Americans could understand the impact of his spiritual shift while many in the media kept referring to him as Clay, his previous name.
“Cassius Clay is a slave name . . . I didn’t choose it, and I didn’t want it. I am Muhammad Ali, a free name, and I insist people using it when speaking to me and of me . . . “I am America,” Ali said. “I am the part you won’t recognize, but get used to me,” Ali said.
Ali was one of those sport legends, who perhaps, drew the highest regards from archrivals in the ring with one of them George Foreman, 67, in a tweeter shared his grief saying “a part of me slipped away, the greatest piece”.
Foreman, who was knocked out by Ali in the eighth round of a match as he snatched from him the heavyweight championship in 1974, later told BBC “part of me is gone”.
“Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest human beings I have ever met. No doubt he was one of the best people to have lived in this day and age . . . to put him as a boxer is an injustice,” Foreman said.