Get in the ring: K-P’s first female boxer forced to back-pedal

Sofia Javed won bronze medal in South Asia Games with just six months of practice

Saba Rani July 21, 2016
Sofia Javed won bronze medal in South Asia Games with just six months of practice.

PESHAWAR: In the face of unimaginable odds, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s Sofia Javed has made history. Not only did she win a bronze medal in the South Asia Games this February, but also became the first woman from K-P to compete in an international boxing championship.

With just six months of training, Sofia did the nation proud in Shillong, India. However, it is a shame that few were even aware of this achievement at the time, let alone five months down the road.

The road to success has not been easy for her. Talking to The Express Tribune, she says, “No one ever supported me, neither my family nor the sports board. Initially, I was not even allowed to practise in Qayyum Stadium because I am a woman. There was no separate ring for women, but I insisted and finally got permission to start practising with male boxers.”

Sofia started out on the roof of her house and later became the only  woman to be practising in the Lala Aman Boxing Ring. “Practicing with male boxers actually helped me as I could easily beat the girls and it also boosted my level of confidence,” she says, laughing about her experience.

Apart from boxing, Sofia also partakes in wushu kung fu, karate and taekwondo and has won half a dozen medals in competitions on the national level.

Talking about the government and political administration’s lack of interest in the sports sector, Sofia remembers PTI promised the people of K-P better prospects.  “After winning the elections, Imran Khan promised he would support athletes and promote talent. However, after three years of his party’s government in this province, there is no boxing ring in Peshawar. The sports board always moans about the lack of funds,” she says. “We had to go to Kazakhstan for a tournament, but no camp was set up so we couldn’t practise and it’s all because of a lack of funds.”

Hundreds of athletes in the region do not get the opportunity to showcase their talent because of the sports board’s lack of concern for them. With funds being such a major problem, only those that can afford to go on international tours on their own get the chance to play, while everyone else, no matter how talented, is left behind.

“We are talented, but not fortunate enough,” Sofia says sadly. It is not just the board that has been unsupportive, even her own family refuses to acknowledge her talent as it brings no monetary benefits to them. “My brother even told me to sell my medals as they are of no use. Our sports board only announces cash prizes for the winners, but I never get the prize money after winning any tournament.”

Sofia is not very optimistic about the future. “I fear that today, it’s my brother that is asking me to quit, but soon talented girls from the region will stop coming forward no matter how well they play because of the lack of governmental support,” she says in a resigned manner.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2016.


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