Friday, October 19, 2012

Sadaf Rahimi, a dream (just) postponed

For a long time, Sadaf Rahimi dreamt about representing her country at the London Olympic Games. This aspiration was born after, against all odds, she started practicing boxing... in Kabul.

The first time I hit someone it was in my village, I was 11. It was actually my cousin. Afterwards he said I hit him so hard that I should become a boxer!”, recalls Sadaf.

Born in 1994, she started training boxing after Tareq Azim, vice president of Hope of Mother (HOM), has launched, in 2007, the Afghan Women's Boxing Federation. Around 25 girls began training by that time, which took place in Kabul Stadium, where, during Taliban regime, many women had been victims of public executions.

Sadaf and her sister Shabnam, one year older, were among the first athletes. “My family fled to Iran during the taliban regime, but I heard that women used to be killed here and sometimes, when I exercise alone inside the stadium, I panic”, Sadaf confesses.

At the beggining, their father was reluctant, concerned that such a male sport could jeopardize the personal future of his daughters. Whose man would marry a woman boxer? However, the enthusiasm of the girls... knocked him out.

It is something that has never been done in the history of any islamic republic, to see a woman step up in such male dominated world”, said Tareq, the first coach of the two afghan girls. “I'm not training these young ladies to become killers. I'm there to present them on how to develop confidence and say: 'If he can do it, I can do it!?'”

The girls understood Tareq's message. “I want to deliver a message to the world through my fighting: that afghan girls are not victims”, says Sadaf. On Youtube, she dazzled with videos of Laila Ali, daughter of the champion Muhammad Ali and herself a boxer in the US. “I wanted to prove that afghan girls could do everything too, just like in the West.

Faced with social disapproval, religious condemnation and even doubts from some coaches, Sadaf won every single domestic battle. Her determination crossed borders and, in early 2012, she received a “wild-card” - a special invitation given to cases where the qualification was not possible - to compete in the London Olympics. “I am sure I will be punched like a bag. Like I am a pillow being pummeled”, she said. “I just don’t want to be down on and knocked out on the floor. That would be embarrassing for me and a dishonor for Afghanistan.

The International Boxing Association (AIBA) gave Sadaf a hand and took her to the United Kingdom where she attended a training camp in Cardiff University, for two weeks. “Whether I win a medal or not, I will be a symbol of courage as soon as I step into the ring”, she said.

That moment, however, never came. The July 18th, 2012, AIBA decided that Sadaf would not participate in the London Olympics, fearing that she could not endure the fighting against more experienced and better prepared opponents.

When Sadaf's dream fell apart, Tareq Azim felt as if it was his own dream. “The ultimate thing is about keeping her motivated, the ultimate mission is to keep the project alive, is about keeping hope for ther nation. And that's what we are going to do! Sadaf wants to go, Sadaf wants an opportunity in the Olympics. All she has to do is give me the green light.” Tareq is willing to train Sadaf in San Francisco, where he lives and owns a gym. Perhaps having in sight the Rio de Janeiro Olympics (2016).


Fight like a man!” (2011), about Tareq Azim's return to Afghanistan, in 2007, and the start of female boxing classes in Kabul

The Boxing Girls of Kabul” (2011)

Additional articles:

"I'll proudly fight for women and Afghanistan", The Guardian, 11/03/2012

"Una púgil indomable", El Mundo, 05/06/2012 (spanish)

No comments:

Post a Comment