Apart from cricket, Pakistan has been lacking in all the major sports that are around the world. There was a time when it was a proud moment to be in the Olympics and Asian Games winning the medals for the green flag. But then all stopped, we got lost somewhere. What happened in between? Fencing is not popular support, yet Pakistani women are trying to make a mark in it. Usually, women athletes do not have access to sports as men athletes have. Yet, despite the hurdles, they have tried to be in the game as much as they can.
We have had international players which made records in Squash, Hockey, Football, Kabaddi, Rugby, Weightlifting, Wrestling, Gymnastics, Athletics, Badminton, Boxing, Karate, etc.
In recent times, we have players who came in limelight without any governmental support:
- Arshad Nadeem-Javelin
- Talha Talib-Weightlifting
- Isra Waseem-Ju-Jitsu
- Muhammad Waseem, Muzaffar Khan-boxing
- Mahnoor Shehzad-Badminton
- Bisma Khan- swimming
Women tend to get a harsh response for playing sports. The question that arises is what is the need for that sports, or why a woman in sports? They can’t accept that a woman can play sports. These are the challenges that a woman has to face other than financial or moralistic support.
Fencing has been part of the Olympics for more than 300 years. It became part of the 13th South Asian Games in 2019. 11 athletes represented Pakistan and won 2 bronze medals.
There are three weapons in modern fencing: foil, épée, and sabre. Each weapon divides the sport into different types, and each has its own rules and strategies.
Fencing in Pakistan
Fencing is relatively new in Pakistan. Such sports usually don’t attract women athletes due to the clothing involved. National Champion Aisha Muhammad shares her experience in fencing. She said, “Many of the girls back out from taking part in the sports because of the dress or uniform. Girls who cover themselves are also interested in playing sports but are hesitant that they will have to remove their Hijab to take part. But this was a sport where you can even wear all the equipment with your Hijab. The footwork involved in this sport keeps you physically fit and mentally strong. There is a minimal number of tournaments in Pakistan, and we don’t get much chance to practice at a national level. Also, there is no schedule for it. Suddenly, you get two to three tournaments in a row.” She also takes help from online videos. She also trains girls who are interested in fencing and intends to impart the knowledge she has to the younger generation.
Despite cricket fever, the coach and Secretary-General of Sindh Fencing Association (SFA), Muhammad Taqi, is hopeful of people getting interested in fencing. The players are increasing. Female athletes are more interested than male athletes due to the support of the hijab. Parents also support their daughters as the dress is covered. There is the unavailability of the equipment which makes the training difficult. Since it is very expensive and the athletes cannot afford it this makes them leave the sports.
The government has to devise policies to give sports a proper infrastructure, framework, and funding so that they can work with the players to achieve the best. Due to a lack of support from the government, many players leave and cannot pursue their dreams. To compete internationally, the government should give the sports bodies authority to upgrade their present capacity and report to the government for assistance.