From Iran to France, how Sadaf Khadem became a boxer and champion of women’s rights

From Iran to France, how Sadaf Khadem became a boxer and champion of women’s rights
In 2019 she became the first female boxer from Iran to fight in France. (File/AFP)
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Updated 17 October 2022
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From Iran to France, how Sadaf Khadem became a boxer and champion of women’s rights

From Iran to France, how Sadaf Khadem became a boxer and champion of women’s rights
  • Iranian is now a personal trainer who lives in southern France, but her heart remains united with the female struggle in her home country

From basketball to boxing, and then to personal training, Sadaf Khadem has taken an unorthodox route in the world of sport.

It is a strange journey geographically too, beginning in the Iranian capital of Tehran and ending in the coastal village of Royan in southern France.

As a student Khadem majored in physics and mathematics, but decided to pursue a sporty path that resulted in her becoming a personal trainer, traveling to Dubai at the age of 20 to obtain a coaching certificate from the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness.

Now 27, she is now a personal trainer, studies commerce and has recently founded her own clothing line.

But it has not been an easy journey for Khadem, who faced many obstacles while concentrating on sport.

The first was finding a boxing instructor and a location to train. A three-hour round trip sorted that one out.

Then there was the issue of no boxing federation for women existing in Iran to regulate the sport. 

She said: “A lot of men train with women without any regulations set by any organization, and there is a lot of violence. In France or other countries, there is a federation that regulates things so it is more difficult to commit violent acts, but that’s not the case in Iran.”

Khadem told Arab News that after a bad experience with her first boxing coach in Iran, she stopped the sport for a year. She then resumed with the coach of the Iranian national team.

In 2019 she became the first female boxer from Iran to fight in France.

She added: “After training with the Iranian national team coach, I searched everywhere in order to participate in a boxing match. I tried Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and, in the end, I sent a message on Instagram to coach Mahyar Monshipour and asked him if he could organize an official match and he agreed.

“I knew that it would be important because I was the first female boxer who wanted to participate in an official amateur boxing match. I knew that a lot of media outlets would want to cover the event, but I did not imagine it would be that big.”

Eventually Khadem moved to France with the help of Monshiphour, a French-Iranian former World Boxing Association champion.

She succeeded in taking part in her first official bout abroad, but ever since has had difficulties returning to Iran.

French laws meant she had to remove her hijab during fights, which led to her receiving threats from the Iranian regime, hastening her decision to live in forced exile in France. She has since decided to stay in the country voluntarily.

She said: “The first year was very difficult. I did not speak French, it was like coming from a different planet.

“I did not know the rules nor the culture here. Everything was different. On top of that I was on my own, without my family and without any money.

“The forced exile was only for a year and, after that, it was I who chose to stay in France. Journalists always say that I am a refugee, but I am not. I live here now willingly. I have my residency and my Iranian passport.”

Khadem was afforded freedom and protection in France. She added: “I am not saying that it is paradise and that there are no issues here, but compared to a country like Iran, I am freer.

“I lived in Iran so I know what it is like to be a woman living there. I remember when I was 16 years old and I wanted to train with men because I hated being a woman in Iran.”

Reporters in France used to ask her to comment on the political situation in her homeland but she always refused.

She said: “I never answered their questions because I would be putting my family in danger as they still live in Iran.

“Iran is not like France; we are not free to express our political opinion. I refused to give any interview until what happened a few weeks back with Mahsa Amini.

“I don’t reject the fact that I am Iranian, I am proud to be Iranian, but with all the kindness and freedom that I have experienced here in France, I would only go to visit today to see my family and friends. I cannot live there.”

Khadem sold one of her apartments in Iran and invested the money in her own clothing line. She hopes her example can empower women in her home country.

She added: “I am not a hardcore feminist who is against men, but human rights are important to me.

“The life of women there is different from other countries. I want to motivate women. I have spent a lot of money on my company and I haven’t made any profit, but I am proud.”

Khadem had not wanted to get involved in politics but was compelled to do so following the death of Amini, who was killed by the Iranian morality police after taking off her hijab.

She said: “I started posting about it on my Instagram account, not out of compassion because I am Iranian but because logically it is not OK to kill people in 2022, whether men or women, for a piece of cloth. I don’t accept this and I fight for human rights.

“Following the death of Mahsa Amini, there were over 100 others killed. The Iranian government has brought in its proxies living in other countries to kill its people.

“It pains me that people are protesting and the price that they are paying is their lives.

“People are protesting for democracy, to have a country where they can live more freely.”

She added: “We are only making noise and we cannot accompany the people in Iran. The price that we are paying here in France is a bit of tiredness. After that we go back home peacefully.

“The price that people are paying in Iran is their lives and I am not OK with that. That is why I suggested that the best solution would be an online protest and launching cyberattacks because everything is shared on social media these days.”

Khadem believes that strategy is very important at this stage, and says that most Iranians living in France do not realise what the regime is capable of.

She said: “You can protest but you must have a strategy and a path for everything you want in life. To run a country or make changes in a country is a big deal.

“If I don’t speak up today I will regret it tomorrow. I stand by the Iranian people until the day Iran becomes free. I am their soldier, I am a champion in the eyes of the Iranian people. I stand by them until the end for freedom and for human rights.”


Luton get their first Premier League victory by beating Everton 2-1

Luton get their first Premier League victory by beating Everton 2-1
Updated 19 sec ago
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Luton get their first Premier League victory by beating Everton 2-1

Luton get their first Premier League victory by beating Everton 2-1
LIVERPOOL, England: Luton earned their first Premier League win after scoring two first-half goals and hanging on for a 2-1 victory at Everton on Saturday.
Tom Lockyer and Carlton Morris scored seven minutes apart at Goodison Park before Dominic Calvert-Lewin cut the lead in half shortly before the break.
Beto missed two chances to equalize for Everton by sending headers over the crossbar — first in the 75th and again in the 86th.
A week ago, Luton secured their first point in a 1-1 draw with Wolverhampton after having lost their first four games of the season — its first-ever in the Premier League.
Luton last played in England’s top division in 1991-92 — the season before it was rebranded as the Premier League.
The visitors outhustled Toffee defenders on both goals. Lockyer was first to a rebound off the crossbar to poke home in the 24th. Morris then got clear of a defender and volleyed in Alfie Doughty’s free kick in the 31st.
Calvert-Lewin netted from close range in the 41st. He’s now scored in three straight games.

Pakistan’s football body appoints new head coach ahead of next month’s World Cup qualifiers

Pakistan’s football body appoints new head coach ahead of next month’s World Cup qualifiers
Updated 30 September 2023
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Pakistan’s football body appoints new head coach ahead of next month’s World Cup qualifiers

Pakistan’s football body appoints new head coach ahead of next month’s World Cup qualifiers
  • Stephen Constantine has been an elite FIFA instructor since 2000 and has helped improve India’s rankings in the game
  • Pakistan will be facing Cambodia in the World Cup qualifiers scheduled to take place on the 12th and 17th of October

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) on Saturday announced the appointment of Stephen Constantine as the new head coach of the men’s national squad, hoping that its decision would help the team win the FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Cambodia next month.
The new coach has been an elite FIFA instructor since 2000 and has earned immense respect in South Asia after he took India 176 to 96 in international rankings. According to a PFF statement, he brings top-tier professional experience and his familiarity with the region allows him to have an immediate impact.
“Stephen has agreed to join PFF with a singular focus for now – to win qualifiers against Cambodia,” the statement added. “The away and home-based leg between Pakistan and Cambodia will be played on the 12th and 17th of October in Cambodia and Pakistan, respectively.”
The federation also thanked the outgoing coach, Shehzad Anwar, for “resurrecting Pakistan men’s national team” within a year, saying the Pakistan team would not have been prepared to rise to the next level without his hard work and passion.
Pakistan have faced challenges and struggles in the world of international football over the years. Historically, they have not been considered a strong team on the world stage compared to some of the top footballing nations.
Several factors, including limited resources, infrastructure, and competition within the country, have contributed to their lower FIFA ranking. However, football is still developing in Pakistan, and there have been efforts to improve the sport’s status in the country.
 


Yemenis at Asian Games divided by war, united by sport

Yemenis at Asian Games divided by war, united by sport
Updated 30 September 2023
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Yemenis at Asian Games divided by war, united by sport

Yemenis at Asian Games divided by war, united by sport
  • The Yemeni team at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China is the only sign of the country’s unity, according to delegation chief Abdel Sattar Al-Hamadani
  • Yemen’s medal tally in Hangzhou is zero with the multisport event halfway through

HANGZHOU, China: One delivered gas cylinders in government-run Aden for a living and the other cooked meals in Houthi-held Sanaa.
Now the two athletes from war-torn Yemen find themselves on the same team at the Asian Games.
Yemen has been in the grip of a war since 2014 pitting forces loyal to the internationally recognized government against the Iran-backed Houthis. The conflict has cost hundreds of thousands of lives.
The Yemeni team at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China is the only sign of the country’s unity, according to delegation chief Abdel Sattar Al-Hamadani.
“We marched behind a single banner at the opening of the Games,” Hamadani told AFP.
“Sport has paid a heavy price for the war,” added Hamadani, who heads the Yemeni Basketball Association, pointing out the absence of any material support, apart from that provided by the International Olympic Committee and Asian bodies.
Said Al-Khodr, a judo fighter from Aden, worked in the morning and trained in the afternoon to make the Games team.
“The love of sport runs through my veins and I toil from dawn until 3:00 p.m. carrying gas cylinders on my back to deliver across the city,” he said.
“Then I take a shower and go to my judo training session nine or 10 kilometers (five-six miles) from home, said the 19-year-old father-of-one.
The athlete said he often hitchhikes to training because the transport allowance from his judo club “isn’t enough to cover my costs.”
The Yemeni economy was already in crisis before the Houthis seized Sanaa in September 2014, prompting a years-long civil war between the militia and the internationally-recognized government backed by an Arab military alliance.
Khodr said at one stage he quit the sport given the difficulties, including a close call when shrapnel from bombing fell around the car in which he was traveling.
“I gave my uniform to someone else because I couldn’t bear to see it hanging up in my house,” he said.
“I lasted five or six months and then one day my feet took me to the club, and I had to pay $300 for a new outfit.”
Yussef Iskander, another athlete in the small Yemeni delegation, says he narrowly escaped death when a shell exploded as he left the hall where he was practicing the martial art of wushu.
One piece of shrapnel pierced his foot, another killed one of his teammates and a third caused the amputation of another’s foot.
The explosion happened in Taiz, a city in the southwest of the Arabian Peninsula country.
“Because of the injury I stopped training from 2015 to 2021, but eventually resumed to raise the Yemeni flag in China,” he said.
A silver medallist at the Arab Games in Beirut in 2014, Iskander, who is expecting his second child, trains for about an hour a day.
“China has been preparing for the Games for a year and a half and we’ve been preparing for just one month here,” he said in Hangzhou.
Iskander rejects the idea of emigrating, but judoka Abdalla Faye, 29, wants to escape his war-ravaged homeland.
“I want to go to France, where judo is practiced, where I can flourish, but I have no money,” he said.
The Sanaa resident has two jobs, alternating between delivering ready-made meals and working as a security guard in the Houthi-held capital.
“I go to training exhausted, which doesn’t help me prepare for big tournaments,” said Faye, who came 17th in the -73kg category at the Games.
Yemen’s medal tally in Hangzhou is zero with the multisport event halfway through.
But Hamadani hopes his country can take part in the 2024 Paris Olympics, saying he has already received invitations for athletics, boxing and swimming.
He intends to lead an official delegation to France — if he can get out of Yemen, where airports are few and numerous checks are carried out by the warring factions for movement between areas.


Former MMA star Sapp praises Saudi Arabia’s fighting ambitions

Former MMA star Sapp praises Saudi Arabia’s fighting ambitions
Updated 30 September 2023
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Former MMA star Sapp praises Saudi Arabia’s fighting ambitions

Former MMA star Sapp praises Saudi Arabia’s fighting ambitions
  • Bob Sapp is one of the most famous foreign MMA fighters in Japan

TOKYO: Bob Sapp, one of the most famous foreign MMA fighters in Japan, has praised Saudi Arabia for its sporting ambitions, which will be highlighted at the end of October when WBC Heavyweight Boxing Champion Tyson Fury takes on UFC Heavyweight Champion Francis Ngannou in an exhibition match in Riyadh.

“Saudi Arabia, I tell you, it looks to be very exciting,” Sapp said in an interview with Arab News Japan. “Saudi Arabia is a powerhouse in the combat entertaining, combat sports arena. Hosting Tyson Fury vs. Francis Ngannou is absolutely excellent. Tyson Fury is the No. 1 heavyweight in the world in boxing, Francis Ngannou is the No. 1 MMA heavyweight. This will be very big.”

Twenty years ago, Sapp was one of the most famous MMA athletes in the world, having given up NFL football for fighting. He became hugely popular in Japan both in the K-1 mixed martial arts field and as a celebrity. At the age of 50, he is still active and says he would also like to fight in the Middle East, hinting that a big fight could take place later this year.

“Who will go against Saudi Arabia or Tyson Fury vs. Ngannou?” he asked. “I think Dubai, they’ve got some very big powerhouse hitters as well and Dubai would like to compete in the arena as well.”

Sapp says negotiations are ongoing for a possible fight against a big-name fighter in an Arab country, but no deal has been confirmed yet.

This article originally appeared on Arab News Japan


Koreas clash at Asian Games as fierce rivalries take center stage

Koreas clash at Asian Games as fierce rivalries take center stage
Updated 30 September 2023
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Koreas clash at Asian Games as fierce rivalries take center stage

Koreas clash at Asian Games as fierce rivalries take center stage
  • Arch-rivals North and South Korea face off in football, while India and Pakistan compete in hockey
  • Saturday will see gold medals awarded in weightlifting, diving, shooting, table tennis, and eSports

HANGZHOU: North and South Korea clash on the football pitch and India do battle with Pakistan in hockey as fierce rivalries take center stage at the Asian Games on Saturday.
The men’s and women’s 100m sprint titles will also be contested on the athletics track in Hangzhou, where the rain fell steadily in the early afternoon.
With the Games approaching their halfway point, hosts China have raked in 107 gold medals, far ahead of the rest, with Zhang Zhizhen doing his part on Saturday by winning the men’s tennis crown.
The 60th-ranked Zhang made a slow start and fell 4-1 behind in the first set of the final against Japan’s Yosuke Watanuki.
But with the home crowd roaring him on, the 26-year-old from Shanghai battled back to win 6-4, 7-6 (9/7) and become the first Chinese men’s singles tennis champion at the Games since 1994.
“It’s been a very, very tough week, not just this match, but very tough for the whole week actually, from the first match onwards,” said Zhang.
“But I’m super-happy that from the beginning of the first match, step by step, I’ve played better and better tennis.”
Earlier in the day, Taiwan’s Chan Hao-ching and Chang Yung-jan won gold in women’s doubles. The second-seeded pair beat fellow Taiwanese Lee Ya-hsuan and Liang En-shuo 6-4, 6-3.
Rising Chinese star Zheng Qinwen won the women’s singles title on Friday.
Some of Saturday’s most mouthwatering match-ups come later in the day.
North Korea and South Korea face off for a place in the semifinals of the women’s football, with local and regional bragging rights at stake between two countries that are still technically at war.
Also in the last eight, holders Japan play the Philippines, China face Thailand and Taiwan meet Uzbekistan.
Towards the end of another packed schedule, arch-rivals Pakistan and India face off in a men’s hockey group match, in what is sure to be another fierce encounter between neighbors with fraught ties.
Gold medals will be won on Saturday in other sports, including weightlifting, diving, shooting, table tennis and eSports.
Diving, which is expected to be dominated by the home nation’s world-class squad, and weightlifting get under way for the first time at these Games.
The drizzle could be a factor in the outdoor sports.
As well as the 100m titles, five other golds will be snapped up on the second day of track and field.
EJ Obiena of the Philippines, the world number two, will be hot favorite to clinch a first Asian Games gold of his career in the pole vault.