Sarah, 27, aims to be Iraq’s jewel with a crown

Sarah Idan, 27, a singer, songwriter and musician from Baghdad, will represent her country at the Miss Universe pageant in the US this month. (Via social media)
Updated 08 November 2017
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Sarah, 27, aims to be Iraq’s jewel with a crown

BAGHDAD: Sarah Idan carries the hopes and dreams of Iraq on her shoulders — and very pretty shoulders they are too.
Sarah, 27, a singer, songwriter and musician from Baghdad, will represent her country at the Miss Universe pageant in the US this month.
“It’s an incredible honor,” she said on social media. “Very grateful and excited.”
Sarah qualified for the contest last week when she was crowned Miss Universe Iraq 2017 at a ceremony in Baghdad — but, Iraq being Iraq, the process was not without incident. Judges found out that the initial winner, Vian Sulaimani, had been married and divorced, which is against the rules.
It is more than 40 years since Iraq had a contestant at the pageant. Wijdan Sulyman took part in Puerto Rico in 1972.
Sarah was born and raised in Baghdad. After the invasion in 2003, she worked with the American-led coalition forces in the city, which gave her the opportunity to travel to the US. Last year she won the Miss Iraq USA title in Michigan.
Many Iraqis welcomed her participation in the pageant. “We need to breathe some air away from the wars and killings,” Mona Jaleel, a government employee, told Arab News. “We are not familiar with these contests and I do not think that our nominee will reach the final stages, but I am so excited to see our girl there.”
Hadiya Enad, a teacher, said: “It’s good to revive such events in Iraq. I am proud to finally see Iraqis participating in this contest. We have such beautiful girls, so they have to participate in these events. I love watching them,” Enad said.
Others, however, were less impressed. “The contest does not mean anything,” Sharief Soud said.
And Saman Mohammed, 35, a cameraman, told Arab News: “I personally do not like such events and I would not cover it. I have spent all my life living under war and fighting, who cares about these events?”
The pageant takes place in Las Vegas on Nov. 26.


Headscarved Malaysian girl wows with freestyle football skills

In this photograph taken on July 11, 2018, female football freestyler Qhouirunnisa' Endang Wahyudi, 18, performs a chest stall at a park in Klang, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. (AFP)
Updated 15 July 2018
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Headscarved Malaysian girl wows with freestyle football skills

  • The teenager started freestyle football in 2016, training and learning tricks by watching videos on YouTube
  • Many Muslim women in the country don the traditional hijab and loose-fitting clothing in line with Islamic requirements of modesty

KLANG, Malaysia: The slick freestyle football moves of a Malaysian Muslim girl have boosted her into the spotlight in a country where the sport is dominated by men.
Sporting a headscarf, Qhouirunnisa’ Endang Wahyudi executed deft moves, juggling the ball before balancing it on her soles and later on her forehead.
“The headscarf is not an obstacle,” the 18-year-old student told AFP at a park in Klang, a city about 40 kilometers (25 miles) southwest of the capital Kuala Lumpur.
“It’s normal. It’s just how you handle it.”
In freestyle football, players use all parts of their body to perform often acrobatic tricks with the ball.
More than 60 percent of Malaysia’s 32 million people are Muslims. Many Muslim women in the country don the traditional hijab and loose-fitting clothing in line with Islamic requirements of modesty.
Islam does not stop women from playing sports, Qhouirunnisa’ said. The teenager started freestyle football in 2016, training and learning tricks by watching videos on YouTube.
“With freestyle, you can be free as long as you don’t show (your body),” Qhouirunnisa’ said, adding that she has the full support of her family.
Football is one of the most popular sports in Malaysia, despite the national men’s team being ranked a dismal 171st in the world. Fans across the country often watch matches live on TV well past midnight, cheering foreign teams in competitions like the World Cup.
“Freestyle in Malaysia is mostly (practiced by) men,” Qhouirunnisa’ said, but added that girls in the country were becoming more interested in it.
She trains four to five days a week, balancing, kicking and juggling the ball for up to three hours in every session.
Her freestyle tricks have a growing online audience: her Instagram account has more than 72,000 followers.
Qhouirunnisa’ hopes to one day meet her idol, teenage French freestyle star Lisa Zimouche.
“Being a woman is not an obstacle,” she said. “You can be active in sports.”