Muslim, German, female – and a sports star

BONN, Germany: Fatmire Bajramaj is the carefree young face of women’s football in Germany. A Muslim Kosovan, her eventful life story recalls the hit English film Bend it like Beckham, in which a girl footballer strikes out against ethnic prejudices and her family’s reservations.

Bajramaj, known commonly as Lira, fled from Kosovo with her family and eventually moved to Mönchengladbach, a city in North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany, and began playing football there against her father’s will.

“He wanted me to do ballet. He said football was only for men,” says Bajramaj.

When she realized she had something to offer on the pitch, Bajramaj signed up for the women’s team at FSC Mönchengladbach, soon moving on to another more ambitious team. Her family found out, but she managed to convince her father to watch her play. “He’s been my biggest fan ever since,” Bajramaj says with a grin.

At the age of 16 she started receiving inquiries from national league teams, joining FCT Duisburg in 2004 and playing her debut match for the German national side a year later. Bajramaj has since played in 35 international matches, scoring six goals – probably the most important of which were her two goals in the third place playoff at the 2008 Olympics against Japan.

Bajramaj’s list of successes is impressive: European Under-19 Football Championship, Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Cup and German Football Association (DFB) Cup winner, Olympic bronze, and world and European champion.

Despite her young age, Bajramaj has experienced a great deal, enough to fill the pages of her biography, My Goal in Life – From Refugee to World Champion, published in October 2009. The book tells the story of how she grew up in Gjurakovc, at the very heart of the Kosovo conflict. When the Serbian attacks on Kosovans intensified in 1992, her parents fled to Germany with five-year-old Lira and her two brothers.

The Bajramajs left their farm and had to bribe Austrian customs officers to cross the border. They eventually ended up with relatives in North-Rhine Westphalia. They could not stay there long, however, and were transferred to an asylum-seekers’ home. Her father found work as a builder in Mönchengladbach and the family moved into a small flat in the city famous for its football team.

“I want the public to know how difficult it is for refugee children to integrate in Germany. Only sports helped me find friends. I hope my book will encourage young women from ethnic minorities to take the same path,” says Bajramaj.

She heard more than her fair share of racist comments on the playground, but later managed to earn respect on the football pitch. “That was when they stopped making stupid comments,” Bajramaj remembers.

Germany is her new home, but Bajramaj still has close links to her old country. Her parents and brothers live in Mönchengladbach, but the rest of the family is still in Kosovo. They visit their relatives once a year, pleased to be there but equally happy to return to Germany. Bajramaj does not want to sever her roots though, which include living out her Muslim faith.

“I pray before I go to sleep, before car journeys and matches. But I don’t wear a headscarf, I like wearing makeup and I go to parties.”

Many people still imagine women players all have short hair and stocky legs, one reason why she enjoys playing with her “girlie” image – often wearing makeup on the pitch, playing in pink football boots in last year’s DFB cup final and shooting goals in high heels on a television sports show.

“First and foremost, I want to win, but I want to look good doing it,” says Bajramaj.

But she has more to offer than her looks – she has a big heart too. She has been an ambassador for the children’s charity World Vision and will soon be sponsoring a child. At the beginning of this year, she was made an ambassador for the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion, a movement to renew Europeans’ commitment to solidarity, social justice and greater inclusion.

For German Football Association President Theo Zwanziger, Bajramaj is a shining example of successful integration. He likes bringing her along to public relations appointments and visiting schools with large ethnic minority communities.

“I enjoy it,” says Bajramaj. “It’s an honor for me to be a role model.”


* André Tucic is a freelance writer. This abridged article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) with permission from Qantara.de. The full text can be found at www.qantara.de.

Source: http://bikyamasr.com/?p=10124


Faezeh Hashemi award for excellence in sport

Muslim sporting heroes are rarely away from the public gaze. From the track to the boxing ring, from all over the globe, Muslims are setting sporting records. Few, however, have paralleled the achievements of Faezeh Hashemi and few receive so little public acknowledgement .

Faezeh Hashemi, daughter of former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani, has earned her country no gold medals as such but has promoted the cause of Muslim women in sport - encouraging and enabling women the world over to enter an arena that has for too long appeared unsuitable for Muslim women.

Thanks to her campaigning as Vice President of Iran's National Olympic Committee, the International Olympic Committee permits Muslim women to compete at the games wearing appropriate Islamic dress. This represents a tremendous victory for countless women who might otherwise have their sporting ambitions thwarted. Despite considerable opposition, Hashemi founded and is President of the Federation of Islamic Countries' Women's Solidarity and Sports. She arranged two major international competitions in Iran, demonstrating the keenness and ability of Muslim women to participate in Olympic-standard events.

Faezeh Hashemi was a successful member of parliament in her own right, polling close to the highest vote in previous elections. Her work on and off the political field to make accessible a world that could easily remain out of bounds for many women, stirs the reserves of strength, agility and determination that lay untapped in all of us.

Source: http://www.muslimnews.co.uk/awards/index.php?page=hashemi

Sports Program for Muslim Females by Lopiano

Former Texas Women's Athletics Director Donna Lopiano will be one of six inaugural recipients of "The Champions: Pioneers and Innovators in Sports Business," at the IMG World Congress of Sports on March 17 in Los Angeles. The award recognizes the architects and builders in various segments of sports and were selected for their accomplished body of work throughout their careers.

Lopiano is a member of the National Sports Hall of Fame and the National Softball Hall of Fame. For 17 years she served as director of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women at the University of Texas, during which time she constructed what many believe to be the premiere women's athletics program in the country. Lopiano developed her department from a $57,000 budget in 1975 to nearly $3 million in 1987, while all eight sports she supervised continued to hold national rankings.

The University of Texas enjoyed perhaps its best overall season in 1986-1987 when it was named top women's program in the country for the second consecutive year by Knoxville Journal's all-sports poll. All totaled, Lopiano's department boasted 12 national championships in five different sports, 30 Southwest Conference championships since 1982 and 159 All-American athletes -- dozens among them Olympians and world champions.

Lopiano's success extended to the classroom. From 1975 until her departure, 95 percent of UT's female student-athletes who completed four years of athletic eligibility received a baccalaureate degree.

Lopiano recently spoke with TexasSports.com about her time at The University of Texas and her ongoing pursuit for gender equality in sports.

What was the defining moment that first inspired you to actively work to bring gender equality in sports? When I was told that I couldn't play Little League baseball after being drafted No. 1. That was a tipping point.

How did the idea for Sports Management Resources come to you? How did it come to being? At the age of 61, after 15 years as CEO of Women's Sports Foundation, I decided I had one more career in me. I have never started my own business and so I did.

For readers not familiar with Sports Management Resources, what is this group's primary goal? I gathered three colleagues I respected the most -- all former athletics directors with advanced degrees, all sports management professors, all highly respected professionals and we began this education sport consulting business. Our goal is to help schools, colleges, universities and sports organizations confront managerial challenges -- everything from academic integrity to diversity, gender equity, growing financial resources and compliance.

What else have you been doing since leaving the Women's Sports Foundation? Consulting in USA and the Middle East and writing a book on athletics policies.

Is there anything in particular that you miss about The University of Texas and Austin? Always the people -- great student-athletes, coaches, administrators -- and the UT Austin atmosphere of pursuing greatness.

How did you adapt to being a "Yankee" in Austin? Help from my friends, like Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Jody Conradt, all who took pity on this "rough" Yankee and taught me how to act right -- meaning not like a New Yorker.

Any little known facts, funny stories, etc. from your time at The University of Texas? Too many that shall remain little known.

What progress do you still hope to see, or are working toward, for women in sports, and the world of athletics in general?Only half-way there -- girls are still getting 1.3 million less opportunities than boys in high school sports. Women make up only 43 percent of college athletes, even though females are 56 percent of the student body. They (female student-athletes) are still far behind in scholarship and operating support, provision of fairly paid coaches, etc.

This year's group of honorees is an incredible list of individuals in athletics. Any of your fellow honorees that you admire in particular? Are there any contributions made by your fellow honorees that really stand out to you? There isn't one nominee that I can single out as being more deserving than another -- a tribute to how difficult it is to select champions from among champions.

What sort of work are you doing in the Middle East. Also, women's rights in the Middle East have become a prominent topic of discussion for many in the Western world, can you share any insight on what you have seen personally? Helping to improve ASPIRE (Academy for Sports Excellence), an international sports school for 7th to 12th grade boys; and to open the school to girls, tentative date Sept. 2011, when it will probably be the only girls sports school in the Middle East. It is fascinating and a very rewarding exercise to develop a sports program for Muslim females that is consistent with their religion and culture. It's the adventure of my life.

Source: http://www.texassports.com/genrel/031710aac.html


Should boxing be a male sport only?

SHOULD boxing be a male sport only? According to Amitabh Bachchan, ‘The ladies do not care much for it. Too brutal for them they say.’ That’s what he wrote on his blog after his recent meeting with British boxer Amir Khan. An old fashioned stereotypical understanding some would say. But even boxer Amir Khan has said before that he felt uneasy about the idea of women boxing. Just before the International Olympic Committee announced that women will be allowed to box in the 2012 Olympics – for the first time since 1904, the WBA light welterweight world champion said: ‘”Deep down, I think women shouldn’t fight. When you get hit it’s very painful. Women can get knocked out.” Clearly they hadn’t met Ambreen Sadiq, the UK’s first British Muslim female boxer, who has already won the national female championship for her age and weight. She has been hailed as a “pioneer” by the Amateur Boxing Association and is a role model for many Muslim girls in particular. The 15 year-old said: “I know you should not show your arms and legs off but I am not doing it so I can show my arms and legs off to the whole world. I am doing it so I can enjoy boxing. It is what I want.” Then there’s Muhammad Ali’s daughter, Laila, one of the most celebrated woman boxers in history, who defeated Jacqui Frazier-Lyde, daughter of her father’s old opponent Joe Frazier, on points. So, here on The Grapevine, we are asking whether you agree with the Big B and Amir Khan’s views or should women be allowed to box too?
Source: http://www.asiangrapevine.co.uk/2010/03/14/should-boxing-be-a-male-sport-only/


Chapter 7 of "Challenging Identities: Muslim Women In Australia" on Sports

Chapter 7—The Identity of the ‘Australian Muslim Woman’ in Sport and Recreation

Helen McCue & Fatima Kourouche

Recreation and sport in Australia remain contested areas for women and even more so for Muslim Australian women. This chapter explores the hypothesis that Muslim women are engaging with the dominant discourses of both Islam and Australian in recreational and sports culture in a fluid and dynamic two-way process that actively contests their exclusion from this significant aspect of Australian social and cultural life.

Contrary to the normative discourse surrounding Muslim women and sport, Muslim women in Australia do in fact participate in a wide variety of sporting and recreational activities within their own religious understandings of modesty, covering and gendered spaces. The chapter describes how Muslim women have resisted the dominant discourses of power in social structures in relation to swimwear, as well as in swimming and gym spaces, and in several competitive sports. Through contesting these discourses and occupying, through agency, these ‘spaces of autonomy’ they have created a new identity of self. In so doing myths around Muslim women and sport in Australia have been challenged and a new discourse in these contested areas has emerged. Such agency is contributing to the development of new meanings in religion and sports culture as well as to the emergence of a newly empowered negotiated self, a new identity: that of the Australian Muslim sports woman.

Source: http://www.mup.com.au/page/128