Fighting Stereotypes With Feats: The Girl Who Wears Many Sports Hats

Sabreena Akbar in action. KO Photos by Special Arrangement.

A gold medallist in Martial Arts, a volleyball titleholder, a snow-skiing champion and a cricket captain, an underprivileged girl is inspiring and instructing other Kashmiri girls with her stereotype-trouncing feats and firmness.

By Sayima Dar

ON the road to glory, Sabreena Akbar had a bumpy ride.

But the 25-year-old girl from Central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district fought her odds and emerged as a sports icon for girls she’s empowering as a “compassionate coach” today.

“There was always a sort of shame attached to a girl doing sports publicly,” Sabreena says. “But, thanks to Almighty, I didn’t pay any heed to jaundiced perceptions and kept on playing and improving my game.”

Sabreena says she had to fight against stereotypes to achieve her sports success.

“It was due to my own persistence, as well as to the support of my teachers and friends that I can proudly say I am a gold medallist in Martial Arts, a volleyball titleholder, a snow-skiing champion and a cricket captain. I rejoice the fact how my name is being mentioned throughout India whenever my state participates in any sports event.”

The strenuous sportstar from Sindh valley lately got a shot in her arm when she was appointed as a national level board member by the J&K Roball Association.

Before her ‘coming of age’ moment, she was struggling for sports sustenance in an underprovided family. But the girl had shown early-life sports resilience.

“It began as pastime,” Sabreena, currently pursuing graduation in Physical Education, recalls. “It was a play akin to a toy for a toddler.”

Sabreena standing with her team.

Her proper exposure to the sports life was through her teacher, Abdul Majeed Dar.

Dar being a “venerable coach” taught the playbook to Sabreena and her playmates.

With her teacher’s mentorship, she improved her game, participated in more competitions and eventually realized her potential for the big matches.

“Playing at the district level and the inter-district level boosted my confidence,” she recalls.

“This strengthened my resolve to better my performance and participate in more events. But it wasn’t easy given a lot of negativity around.”

By challenging those notions with her feats, she became an inspiration for other girls of her hometown. Sensing their eagerness towards the sports, she stepped forward as their trainer.

“Sabreena is my first sports teacher who taught me like a friend,” says Muneeza, a girl from Ganderbal’s Sehpora area, Sabreena’s hometown.

“I stepped out of Kashmir for Physical Education because of Sabreena. She supported and empowered me.”

The sportsperson even took her coaching campaign to her family circles, and inspired her relatives, like Ulfat Jan.

Before becoming Sabreena’s trainee, Ulfat used to watch her cousin’s charm in the field.

“Her boldness in the field was impressive,” she says. “Seeing her go out of state for sports competitions sparked my interest and I enrolled in a Physical Education course myself.”

Awarded for her achievements.

Sabreena even inspired her kid-sister and supported her sports activities.

“When someone in your family does something praiseworthy, it sets a bar in the house,” says Zoya Mir, Sabreena’s younger sister. “Didi did it for me.”

Following her sibling’s footsteps, smiling Zoya says, she has already outdone Sabreena – “at least in volleyball.”

After inspiring scores of girls with her sports feats, Sabreena is now planning to widen her sports canvas.

“A lot of my friends look up to me as an idol,” Sabreena says with a sense of gratitude.

“So, it’s my duty to work for the welfare of sports and the sportspersons.”

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