Sport has no barriers | Sunday Observer

Sport has no barriers

23 July, 2023
2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Anusha Kodithuwakku with Zeina Nassar

German bantam weight champion Zeina Nassar said sport is about performance not gender, race or religion.

“I started boxing when I was 13 but was not allowed to fight with hijab (muslim head scarf) and long sleeves and pants,” said Nassar who was born in Berlin to Lebanese parents.

She was not allowed to compete at the European championship after she won the German title in 2018.

“I could just change the rules in Germany because of my performance but was not allowed to fight internationally,” said Nassar who launched a crusade to wear hijab in boxing.

“At the end it is about performance. It is not important how I look or which language I speak. I was fighting for it (hijab). I was always going for meetings and having conversations with the boxing federation (International Boxing Association). Finally because of my presence, the (boxing) community was supporting me and in 2019 the boxing rules were changed,” she said.

“Now every woman that is wearing a hijab can participate. This is important. Today everybody has the same opportunities because it is about performance. I am so proud to be part of that. I got big support from IBA,” said Nassar, who was in Sri Lanka as a Brand Ambassador of IBA.

Having played basketball, football and volleyball, her fighting qualities attracted her to boxing.

“For me it was always about trying something new where I am responsible when I win or lose. I am fighting alone in the ring. Of course I had my team but in the ring I’m alone,” said the 25-year-old.

“I was always a fighter playing to win because I was training so hard. I was just watching videos of women boxing and I was surprised because I had never seen that before,” said Nassar who was initially inspired by boxing great Muhammad Ali and then Roy Jones Jr.

“When I met Roy Jones Jr, I learnt a lot. He showed me so many things. At the end of the day it is about little things which make a big difference in sport. My biggest goal is fighting in the Olympics,” said the 25-year-old student of sociology and education science in Potsdam. (AO)