Despite the fact that Kabaddi is conventionally known to be a male-dominated game, Pakistan is encouraging the progress of the sport for women as well. Hamda 18 and Laiba 16, winner of Punjab Badminton Championship 2019, the multi-sport athletes also known as ‘Masoud Sisters’, have been participating in badminton and karate tournaments across the country. They have been dominating in different sports for years and were among the emerging athletes who took part in one of the first national women kabaddi matches in Lahore under Super Kabaddi League. Their recent venture into Kabaddi has taken Pakistan by storm.
Their father, Mr. Rai Masoud Kharal — manager Pakistan National Kabaddi Team, Deputy Director Commercial of WAPDA and LESCO, and Joint Secretary Pakistan Kabaddi Federation (PKF) — has actively participated in promoting his daughter’s athletic achievements by encouraging and molding them into exceptional athletes. In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Hamda shared, “Our father instilled in us the confidence to not only find the most suitable pathway for ourselves, but also made us passionate to achieve our goals.” She further added, “Our father thought and worked ahead of time, ensuring a brighter future for Laiba and me.”
Hilal for Her, had a chance to sit down with the inspirational Hamda of Masoud Sisters and talk about their experience as Kabaddi athletes.
Q. How did your Kabbadi journey start?
We started playing sports at school level, Laiba was 13 and I was 15 at that time. Kabaddi came to us as an absolute surprise as it was not our sport of choice, at first. In fact, we were in Liāqatpur, for a badminton tournament when we received a call from our father asking us to immediately return to Lahore. Upon reaching Lahore at around 5 a.m., he drove us directly to the Wapda Sports Complex and made us change into our sports kits. Reaching the complex building, Papa told us that we were there for the Asian Style Kabaddi trials. We could not believe our ears until we saw the Kabaddi mat for real. We had always been involved in sports for recreational purposes and were receiving training for badminton; it consequently helped us to qualify during the Kabaddi trials. This particular incident marked the beginning of this unconventional but exciting sport for us.
Q. Who supported you in pursuing this field?
Our most avid supporter is none other than our father. Our father has instilled confidence in us to not only carve a niche for ourselves but also inspired us to be passionate enough to run the track to achieve our desired goal. He has not only been a shield against the disapproval of segments of the society that we live in but has also gifted us the potential to hold our own and fight back whenever needed. It is undoubtedly his endless efforts, passion and love for Pakistan that motivates us to flourish in sports.
Q. What is your biggest strength and how do you manage to fight the pressure?
The best technique that we have embraced is to stay strong and to surround ourselves with positive people. Unfortunately, it is impossible to not receive hateful comments but since we are sisters, it becomes easier for us to survive through it together. We usually discuss these stereotypical and conventional issues among ourselves but at the same time we also ignore them by reminding each other of the fact that we are breaking stereotypes. Although the sense of achievement is great, but we try to stay down to earth and not let success get to our heads and make us arrogant.
Q. Do you think that media’s attention to women’s sports showcasing their capacity and skills in general is comparatively lower than men?
Previously, this was the case but significant progress has certainly been made. If we go back in time, let’s say 20-years, a few women made an effort and pursued sport as a career but they were new to it and lacked the degree of skills compared to men which they had acquired over the years through unjust patriarchy. However, today we have outstanding examples of women in sports that are worth watching because of their brilliant talent.
Media plays a pivotal role in creating awareness to minimise the prevalent social gender inequalities. Hence, we believe that this is the best time to showcase women’s sports on media and international platforms in order to give them their due acknowledgment.
Q. Do you think women’s participation in sports is mandatory for our society’s growth?
Physical health is extremely important; if not as a career, women must consider sports for the sake of their own health. A woman’s role as a daughter, sister, wife, mother and friend are sufficient for the growth of our society. However, participation in sports boosts confidence in women, which will successively benefit an entire chain of young girls to break free from social pressures and raise their voices for their own betterment. We would like to quote an apt famous Urdu adage here, Aurat Mazboot, Mu’aashra Mazboot, which translates to ‘Strong woman, strong society’, therefore, our society needs more examples of women who not only prioritized sports but their health as well.
Q. Where do you see yourselves in the next five years?
We believe we are fortunate to have a supportive family and a privileged background because of our father but there are thousands of young talented girls out there who are shackled because of family or financial constraints. Allah has bestowed numerous blessings on us sisters, and this gives us an immense responsibility to help nourish the undiscovered talents of deserving people of Pakistan. We are also working on starting an NGO with the name of Masoud Sister's Sporting and Social Club and our aim is to ensure that sports become a reality for every woman of Pakistan who wants to be recognized.
Laiba wants to pursue Sports Management as her academic degree and also wishes to qualify for the Olympics and win a medal in Badminton for Pakistan, whereas, I wish to become an Actuary.
Q. What advice would you like to give to all females who wish to follow in your footsteps?
Set SMART — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely – goals. Stay humble and focused. But most of all you just need to put in your best effort and remember that Allah will always be there to help you.
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