Sport on TV: Ambreen's dreams disturbed after being sent to bed early
Sunday 24 January 2010
Last week it was cage-fighting women, this week it's a 15-year-old girl boxer fighting her way out of a cage. But her battle is more metaphysical than physical. Ambreen Sadiq is the only female Muslim boxer in the country and she dreams of Olympic glory now that women have been permitted to prowl the ring for the first time. But first she must overcome the chorus of religious disapproval within her own community. On the evidence of Ambreen: The Girl Boxer (Channel 4, Friday), that looks to be a far tougher opponent than the ones she faces inside the ropes.
Her father Shokit says that as a baby "Beeno" had a natural boxer's defence, fists up in front of her face when folk would try to pet her. It's as if she knew what a hard slog lay ahead of her. And she still shows plenty of "attitude". When she is invited to attend an England training camp, she drops out after an argument with women's development manager Rebecca Gibson over when she's told to go to bed (at half past nine). A typically petulant teenager, it seems, and you wouldn't want to ask her to tidy her room. But it's not an attitude that wins gold medals, still less keeps them polished afterwards.
The fact that after four days she hasn't thrown a punch doesn't help. Her training, and enthusiasm, drop off and coach Nazil Jalil has to fight to get her back on track. We see Ambreen defend her UK title, but her father cannot make it. The implication seems to be that although he encouraged her to box, outside pressure is being brought to bear. Still, mum Carla, who endured the backchat of other mothers, is in the crowd, even throwing a few shadow jabs of her own.
And there is an enthusiastic turnout from Keighley's Muslims. "I'm so happy that finally we are getting some support from the Asian community," Carla says. But earlier she had announced, "I believe that everything has been decided by God", which surely spoils one of the basic tenets of all sport, that anyone can win. It's damn useful to have God on your side but He makes a most formidable foe – as, indeed, does religion.
* From Ambreen to Jarrad Breen, and another young contender who, in a different way, is fighting prejudice. The sport would claim otherwise but the perception of bowls is that it is an old man's game. Yet the 17-year-old from Tonyrefail in Wales, the youngest player to take part in the World Indoor Singles Championship at Potters Bar, reached the last 16, beating the world No 2 Mark Royal before bowing out against Nick Brett (Bowls Extra, BBC2, Wednesday). He didn't fade away, but instead battered the woods about as if he was on a giant pool table. With his spiky hair and spiky style of play, he could augur in a new era and overcome the bias of opinion. Everyone's calling their babies Jack these days, so why not?
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