While the rest of the world prepares to accept skirts as part of the attire, female badminton players in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) will step on the courts donning a hijab and with legs covered.
The Badminton World Federation (BWF) ruled that female players will have to wear skirts, part of an overall campaign to uplift the sport’s profile, which met staunch resistance from Pakistan, as well as a few other countries.
Faced with possible non-representation at the international level, the Fata Sports Board (FSB) Women’s Wing has not given up hope and is focusing on bringing together players from regions like Kurram Agency, Bajaur and Khyber Agency to Peshawar. The body, according to the FSB Assistant Director Nazia Zaki, can help the players improve if they compromise on the dress code in time.
The FSB has therefore, decided to organise a badminton championship at the provincial level from May 16 and though there might be hurdles, female athletes will slowly be onboard. The first step for the athletes, however, is to acquire permission from their parents to head to Peshawar.
“For us, the skill matters and not the dress code,” Zaki told The Express Tribune. “Right now, we are only concentrating on players’ skills. Just holding a women’s tournament in Peshawar is a challenge itself. We have more talent than Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab. It’s just that these girls need grooming and we are trying to open their minds to different avenues.”
According to Zaki, most players will not mind wearing trousers for the time being but their parents will have to come to terms with that. While the board has decided to ignore the skirt-rule for now, Zaki said that grooming the players in such a way for them to accept international standards is the first obstacle. And this needed time.
“We are not telling them to wear tracksuits or skirts. We are not talking about the dress code because we don’t want to scare them away from the sport. There is a lot of talent in these girls and we will take it slow. The extremist elements harass the players’ families if we act hastly.”
Sport’s is their way out
Meanwhile, Hira, a 17-year-old athlete from Kurram Agency, said that badminton and squash are her only way out of the village. The player, who draws inspiration from Pakistan’s squash player Maria Toor, said that she was asked by Zaki to join the FSB badminton team when she was playing a school tournament.
“We have been practising for two weeks now and I think I’ll do well in the tournament. Toor is a good example for all of us. She started her career wearing tracksuits and now she wears skirts in the international events. I don’t think a dress code can change my decision.”
‘Players can wear tracks’
SINGAPORE. The Badminton World Federation (BWF) has clarified that female players can wear shorts and track bottoms underneath the skirt.
The body, while confirming the skirt-rule that applied to all top-level matches from June 1, issued statements confirming that the idea was not to discriminate against religious beliefs.
“The new ruling seems to have been misinterpreted as to mean that women cannot wear shorts or track bottoms when they compete and must only use a skirt,” said BWF Deputy President Paisan Rangsikitpho. “Players can wear all of the above and they have to wear a skirt above these articles of clothing.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 6th, 2011.
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