British-Pakistani boxer fights for equality in the ring

British-Pakistani boxer fights for equality in the ring
In this undated photo, Haseebah Abdullah trains with a fellow hijab-wearing boxing trainee at the Windmill Boxing Gym. (Supplied)
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Updated 26 June 2021

British-Pakistani boxer fights for equality in the ring

British-Pakistani boxer fights for equality in the ring

RAWALPINDI: British-Pakistani boxer Haseebah Abdullah was recognized last month as a “Hometown Hero” by the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games for her “huge role in making the sport more inclusive” as England’s first hijab-wearing boxing coach.

Now her goal is to bring equality across the sporting industry.

Based at the Windmill Boxing Gym, in Smethwick, West Midlands, Abdullah has been a professional coach for about five years. A native of Gujrat in Pakistan’s Punjab, she boxed at an amateur boxing club but was unable to participate competitively because of dress code rules that did not allow for the hijab.

But her recognition by the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games has raised her hopes that she can work to change stringent dress requirements across the sports world.

“I hope I am a symbol of change and equality across sports,” she told Arab News in an interview this week. “I hope that I am a good representation for young British-Pakistani women and for women in general.”

“Growing as a coach is what I wish to do, to provide the best guidance and support for the athletes I work with,” Abdullah said. “I hope I can be a driving force in changing the attitudes and impressions people have of (boxing).”

She said that many young women in her hometown in the UK were now considering boxing as a professional option: “No one should be judged or scored on their outer appearance, but solely on their athletic performance.”

The same applies to gender, Abdullah said.

“People still have this idea that it (boxing) is a sport solely for men and see it as an aggressive sport and fear injury,” she said. “The sport is for all and only boxers who are well trained and fit for competition should take part in the bouts, regardless of gender.”

Abdullah also hopes that she will be able to advance her coaching career and gain international experience, including in Pakistan where she still has family.

“I hope to progress as a coach by taking my level three coaching course and trying to get some international experience too,” she said. “This may even involve some experience and opportunities in my motherland, Pakistan.