Muslim teenager enters boxing competition wearing a hijab

‘I was a bit worried at first about being a hijabi girl going into a boxing gym. It’s not what people are used to,’ said Safiyah.

‘But everyone has been so nice and supportive. No one minds that I wear a hijab in the ring.

‘It doesn’t affect my boxing at all, some people think it might make it hard to move but I forget I’m even wearing it.’

Safiyyah, who volunteers at a mental health charity, spars with both men and women during training.

‘I remember the first guy I sparred with, he winded me,’ she added. ‘He didn’t realise he had done it because I hid it because my coach has always said don’t show any emotion.

‘They don’t go easy on me but I always say “just because I’m a girl don’t think anything different of me”.’

During her struggle with eating disorders, Safiyah was bed-ridden. She decided when she got better, she would start boxing.

‘I decided that two years of being ill was enough. I wrote a list of things that I wanted to do with my life like start a YouTube channel and go sky diving.

‘Boxing was on the list and as soon as I felt strong enough I started doing it.

‘I want to show people that mental health problems don’t have to hold you back.’

Restrictions on wearing a hijab while competing in boxing has been an ongoing issue in boxing affecting female Muslim boxers in the past.

The ban had prevented Amaiya Zafar, an 18-year-old boxer from Minnesota in the United States, from competing at international level.

The ban excluded her from qualifiers for the 2020 Olympics, but the rule change will allow her to attempt to become an Olympian in 2024.

Who knows, Safiyah could even be joining her.

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