Ambreen Sadiq, cricketer Adil Rashid and golfer Jasbir Athwal on shortlist

Keighley’s national schoolgirl boxing champion Ambreen Sadiq – believed to be the only registered Muslim female boxer in the country – has been shortlisted for a British Asian Sports Award.

Now 15, she became involved with the sport three years ago when she accompanied her brother to Eastburn Boxing Club, Eastburn.

The Belle Vue Girls’ School pupil was crowned the Amateur Boxing Association’s national champion in June and will defend her title this summer.

Her coach, Naz Jalil, said: “I think it’s brilliant that one of my pupils has been selected.”

He said Ambreen paid no attention to those who disapproved of her boxing for cultural reasons and she would continue to compete in preparation for June’s national championships and work towards competing internationally.

“You get mixed feedback about it from the Asian community and with this being the Asian Sports Awards it is an acceptance of what she is doing, giving her a pat on the back and the support she needs,” he said.

“Ambreen is strong and she knows she’s got the support of her family and coach and that’s all she needs. She doesn’t listen to negative comments.

“It is a boost for her but she needs to keep her feet on the ground and focused on her training.”

Also shortlisted is Bradford’s Yorkshire and England cricketer Adil Rashid, for the Most Up and Coming Personality of the Year.

Bradford-based Jasbir Athwal, founder of the Asian Golf Society, is in the running for the Community Business in Sport Award.

The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony on Saturday, February 6, at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. Voting closes on Thursday, February 4.

Anyone who wants to vote for Ambreen can call 09050260306 or text 84555 with the short code BASA 306.

For terms and conditions, visit the website basauk.tv e-mail: tanya.orourke@telegraphandargus.co.uk

Muslim sportswoman fails to overturn headscarf ban

(AP) — LUCERNE, Switzerland - A Swiss basketball player has failed in her bid to have a court overturn a headscarf ban when she plays in league games.

A local court in the canton of Lucerne said in a ruling published Wednesday that the ban doesn't breach the rights of the player, who is Muslim.

Sura Al-Shawk, a 19-year-old Swiss citizen of Iraqi origin who plays for STV Luzern, sought permission from the Swiss basketball association to wear a scarf. ProBasket said in August she can't because it could increase the risk of injury and the sport has to be religiously neutral.

ProBasket said it followed the rules of FIBA, basketball's world governing body.

Al-Shawk can appeal within 10 days at the upper court of the canton of Lucerne. She couldn't be reached for comment.

Source: The Associated Press (Directly from AP)


Documentary on First Female Iranian Olympian to Premiere at Sundance

Munich, Germany - Fatima Geza Abdollahyan had just arrived back at her hotel in Amsterdam when she sat down to read her emails. After a long day at a documentary film festival, her tired eyes scanned the “Received From” column, finally coming to rest on “Sundance Festival 2010.” “Oh,” she thought to herself, “this must be the rejection letter.”

But Fate had a different plan in store for Fatima: “I read the first few lines, beginning with ‘We congratulate you…’ 3 times in a row – I could not believe that I was accepted!”

“Now, I need a drink,” she said.

Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Fatima was raised by her Iranian parents speaking Persian, German, English and French. She studied Political Science and earned a Master’s in International Relations before deciding, in 2001, to study film at the University of Television and Film Munich.

While working in the correspondence office of a German television station in Tehran in 2005, Fatima covered the Muslim Women’s Games, a female sporting event that took place every 4 years (but are no longer running). Organized by the Iranian government, Muslim women from every corner of the globe – including the US – would descend on Tehran to compete for a week in a variety of disciplines.

“This was the first time I realized how difficult it is for Muslim women to do sports in a passionate way. But they did it so well – with great self-understanding and ease,” said Fatima recently in an exclusive interview with NIAC.

Sara Khoshjamal-Fekri

At the games she met Sara Khoshjamal-Fekri, a Taekwondo expert who hailed from a lower middle class family in Southern Tehran. “Even at 17 she had so much charisma and will to make it,” Fatima said. Women like Sara inspired Fatima to plan a documentary on female professional athletes in Iran, focusing on three women in three unique sports. Over the next two years, Fatima conducted research and conceptualized the documentary.

First Female Iranian Olympian

In 2007 the twenty-year-old Sara became the first female Iranian athlete to qualify for the Olympics. The young athlete and her strong-willed coach, Maryam Azarmehr, had left such a strong impression on Fatima that she abandoned her original plan of action – “why go with three different stories when you have one really interesting one?” – in favor of strictly documenting Sara’s journey over a nine-month period in the run-up to and the aftermath of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Permission from Governments

Iran and China are not known for their receptiveness to open media and non-state-controlled cameras and footage. The process for receiving permission from each respective government to film posed a challenge for Fatima, and it was certainly not without difficulty that she procured authorization.

“In Iran it was very difficult to get all the permits – we needed permission for everything, and had to go to the highest ranks to do so,” Fatima said. Besides her persistent production manager in Tehran, Fatima had Faezeh Hashemi, daughter of Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, to thank for her success. Faezeh, Fatima added, is very active in promoting women’s sports in Iran, which tends to irk – as the film discusses – certain members of the clergy. Accreditation in China took a lot more guts – and consequently, a great deal more risk for Fatima. Since coverage of the Olympics is tightly controlled, the only way to receive permission is to be a member of the media. Fatima initially tried to receive permission through the German channel covering the games, but they would not accredit individuals outside their staff. Finally, she was able to get permission from the Iranian side – the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).

Kick In Iran

The result of two years of conceptualizing, nine months of filming, and another year and a half of editing is Kick In Iran, a powerful documentary that follows Sara and Maryam as they navigate their way through an unappreciative society to the Olympics and back. The backbone of the film is the relationship between shagerd, pupil, and ostad, master, which extends beyond the realm of the gymnasium at which they train. The bond that has been built between the two is the result of the environment they operate in – a paternalistic one that’s not entirely receptive to their accomplishments, which are nothing short of history-making.

Indeed, throughout the film, Fatima shows how the cards are stacked against female athletes in Iran – and especially Sara. At one point, the Friday Prayer Leader of Tehran is heard stating his disgust at sending female athletes abroad to partake in competitions. Sara and Maryam, however, are not so easily deterred. While commentators and clerics debate the “Islamic legality” of female athletes in competition, the two women continue working towards their goal of being the best, and, in some ways, are sheltered from this by keeping to their routines.

Unintentional Politics

Fatima stresses that for her part Sara is not a political person, but her passion and her actions indirectly make her so. Having grown up in a lower middle class family in Southern Tehran, her parents are more traditional but they fully support her in all her endeavors. “I wanted to show the people beyond the government and the restrictions placed on their daily lives. My hope is that when people see that, they really take home a humanistic view on a people and a country that has difficult times right now. I want people to start thinking about the Iranian people,” Fatima stated resolutely.

More than Just Roosarys

Fatima’s goal was to frame and deliver performances that allow the audience to identify, connect, and really comprehend the matter at hand, which can be a real challenge. “The frame within which I made the film was first the women, then the athlete and coach, and then present the surroundings in which they move, they live, and they try to be themselves,” she said. Sara and Maryam are people – women – just like any other. They may wear roosarys, headscarves, but their identities go beyond this. Within the realm of the Islamic Republic they’re in their own world; interactions with “outsiders” – people not involved in their sport – are limited. “This is the only place they can be themselves to the maximum and don’t have to play double roles. They can expand their personalities as much as possible within the limits of the constraints.”

The Future

In the mean time, Fatima is continuing her day-to-day job as a freelance filmmaker and enjoying her success. The film has been accepted into a number of other film festivals worldwide – including Visions du Reel, a documentary film festival in Switzerland, and theTrue/False Film Fest in Missouri. In the few spare moments she has, she’s developing two ideas for her next films. As an Iranian woman, however, her heart remains with Kick In Iran. “My purpose by doing this film was to show that Iran is human. To give the possibility to a humanistic access to the society, not one that gives you a political partiality.” In that sense, the film more than delivers.

Written by Arsalan Barmand

Source: http://www.niacouncil.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1633&Itemid=2

Pakistan's female squash player defies tradition

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Pakistan's squash champion Maria Toor Pakay cut her teeth fighting boys in a tribal district synonymous with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, defying convention t

o become a trailblazer in her sport. She hails from South Waziristan, part of Pakistan's tribal belt branded by Washington as the most dangerous place in the world. It is rife with Islamist militant groups, while tribal customs often force women to remain at home. None of that stopped 19-year-old Pakay, however, who is now Pakistan's top-rated female squash player and the world number 85.

"I never acted like a girl and always played and fought with the tribal boys," she told AFP in the northwestern city of Peshawar, now her home.

"My early days roaming around the Shakai streets wearing boys' clothes and fighting against them eventually made me an independent young woman."

Dressed in shorts and smart T-shirt, hair boyishly cut above the neck, she would stand out in her home village of Shakai, on the outskirts of South Waziristan's capital Wana, where many women wear the all-encompassing burka. Muscular Pakay smacks the ball against the wall almost 30 times in a minute. Face perspiring with aggression and gripping the racket tightly, she moves swiftly across the squash court. It was Pakay's father Shamsul Qayum, a government servant and elder of the Wazir tribe, who first noticed her athletic potential. Concerned about her days spent brawling with street boys, he decided to channel her anger into sports. Risking the scorn of his conservative Muslim tribe, he took his daughter to Peshawar and began training her as a weightlifter. But with few opportunities for female weightlifters in Pakistan, he was forced to disguise 10-year-old Pakay as a boy and enter her in the National Boys Weightlifting Championship under a fake boy's name, Changez Khan.

"And Changez Khan won the championship!" Pakay says with a laugh. "It was the first step for me, my first achievement, and then I never got scared by any pressure, restrictions or tribal tradition."

It was a meeting soon after with former world squash champion Jansher Khan that set Pakay's life on its current course, and in 2004 she became Pakistan's top female squash player and started climbing the international ranks.

She has risen seven places in the world rankings in the past month, and made the semi finals of the World Junior Squash Championship in India last year. She is a regular player on the Malaysian circuit, and aims this year to participate in the Cayman Islands Open and the Texas Open Championship. But her determination to defy tradition and champion girls' sports in the conservative northwest has won her some enemies. Taliban militants who operate across swathes of the northwest oppose co-education of girls and boys and advocate a harsh brand of Islamic law, staging bomb attacks to try and advance their aims. "I have received some threats from unknown people who have advised me to stop playing and going out of the house, otherwise they would kill me. But they can't detract me... I would never quit playing," she tells AFP.

"I feel pity for other women of the area, they are confined in the walls and have no rights. I feel pity for my cousins, who don't have rights and can't go out, and who have to wear burkas."

Although she is glad to be free from the restrictions of tribal customs, Pakay says she owes a great deal to her upbringing in the badlands along the Afghan border, which sit outside direct government control.

"My strong muscles are a gift from hiking the rocks of Shakai. I love the solid mountains and feel sorry that I can't go there now," she said.

The streets of Shakai where Pakay once fought neighbourhood boys have now become a battlefield for the Taliban and Pakistan's armed forces.

The military sent 30,000 troops into South Waziristan in October last year to try and quash Taliban strongholds, and the fighting rages on. The instability was one of the reasons Pakay's father wanted her to break free of the tribal region and he has nothing but pride now in his daughter's achievements, despite the reaction from his Wazir tribe. "They call me honourless and say you have lost pride and gone away from the traditions of Islam and the tribe," Shamsul Qayum told AFP. "But I don't care, I have won for my girl and her victories are my pride." By Khurram Shahzad (AFP)

Source: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jWHGnK3xEN8lipq5HLZt9JT_1Uhg


Sadiq can become superstar, says coach

The national title triumph of Bradford schoolgirl Ambreen Sadiq at Manchester’s Boxing School of Excellence earned a glowing tribute from ABA national coach Mick Gannon.

The Belle Vue Girls School pupil defeated Leigh Park’s Bobbie Clark 20-5, earning her the highest points tally of the day and capping off a tremendous season for Eastburn Boxing Club.

Gannon presented her with the gold medal and predicted big things for Sadiq.

“Mick was really impressed,” said Eastburn coach Naz Jalil.

“He said she was brilliant to watch and could be a future superstar.”

Sadiq – known as “Beeno” – dominated her southpaw opponent from the off, catching her with numerous combination shots to go 9-2 up after the first round.

She continued to pressure Clark, who had no option but to come forward to win some points of her own but each time was met with a barrage of punches, leaving the score 14-3 after round two.

The third round was Sadiq’s best. Her skills saw her slip Clarke’s punches, making her miss wildly.

On one occasion, she slipped under a big right, turned Clark and delivered three big shots which forced the referee to give an eight count as the Eastburn girl triumphed 20-5.

Sadiq – who as a Muslim has not always had universal approval of her participation in the sport – will attend a boxing camp in August when she will train with the England squad and hope to impress selectors.

Clubmate Jessica Wilson, of Silsden, was also hoping to compete in Manchester but her opponent pulled out with a broken rib.

Jalil, along with fellow coach Simon Halifax, is delighted with the Eastburn club’s progress this year.

He said: “From 27 bouts, we have won 19 and this is the icing on the cake. To finish with one of our boxers winning a national championship title is just brilliant.”

Jalil also used to coach Keighley youngster Muhammad Ali, who won the Royal Navy national schoolboys under-12 title this year representing Cleckheaton Boxing Academy.

Source: http://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/sport/sportother/sport_other_indoor/boxing/4446241.Sadiq_can_become_superstar__says_coach/

Keighley boxer up for Asian award

Keighley’s Ambreen Sadiq has made a shortlist of three for a British Asian Sports Award.

The Eastburn Amateur Boxing Club member has been selected by judges for the female junior sports personality of the year.

Sadiq was crowned Amateur Boxing Association schoolgirls’ national champion last June, aged 15.

Her nomination means she is invited to the glamorous awards ceremony on Saturday, February 6 at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London, when she will have the chance to rub shoulders with industry leaders, sporting celebrities and a host of VIPs. Sadiq (pictured), who was thought to be the only Muslim girl taking part in ABA competitions in the country, is up against Farzana Ali and Riana Devi Soo-badoo for the award, with the public being asked to vote for the winner.

Thrilled coach Naz Jalil said: “For someone from Keighley to be selected for this award is fantastic.

“We were contacted to see if we would put Ambreen forward initially. That was great in itself but for her then to be picked in the final three is a real honour.

“We just hope people will now support her by voting for her.”

Bradford’s Yorkshire and England cricketer Adil Rashid has been shortlisted for the Most Up and Coming Personality of the Year, while Bradford-based Jasbir Athwal, founder of the Asian Golf Society, is in the running for the Community Business in Sport Award.

  • If you wish to vote for Ambreen, call 09050260306 or SMS 84555 with the short code BASA 306. For terms and conditions, see the competition website www.basauk.tv/. Voting closes on February 4.
Source: http://www.keighleynews.co.uk/sport/4849157.Keighley_boxer_up_for_Asian_award/