KARACHI: History will be made in Shillong, India when Khoushleem Bano, Rukhsana Parveen, and Sofia Javed, step into the SAI-SAG Centre donning their prestigious green blazers with the Pakistani flag embroidered on it.
The three fighters will become the first female boxers from Pakistan to feature in an international sporting event when they step into the ring on February 13 at the ongoing South Asian Games.
In an interview with Dawn, coach Noman Karim sounds excited and emotional as he visualises the moment Khousleem, Rukhsana and Sofia make their much-anticipated debuts.
“Pray for us,” he says, looking into the distance, as if he already knows the outcome of the bouts.
The three female fighters have been training very hard but the fact that they took up the sport professionally only recently makes their upcoming task mountainous.
It's not a cause for concern for the strong-willed Khousleem.
“We are going there [to India] as history-makers and we will come back with a medal,” Khoushleem, who hails from the scenic valleys of Gilgit-Baltistan, tells Dawn
“We know we are not as experienced as the opponents we are going to face but we are fearless and will fight until the final bell,” the fierce 23-year-old says.
“The coach asks us to fight, fight, fight.”
Khoushleem kept her passion for boxing a secret from her family. But her determination has only made her family proud of what the path she has carved for herself.
The boxer's never-say-die spirit is a result of coach Noman’s hard work.
“If you’re mentally weak, it doesn't matter if you are physically super-strong. But if you’re mentally strong and physically not quite there yet, you still have a chance,” says Noman as he brushes aside the inexperience of the Pakistan trio as a demotivating factor for the girls.
The 20-year-old Sofia, who belongs to Peshawar, also credits her coach for a chance at making history but says her family played an equally important role.
“My family has always backed me to pursue sports; my siblings too,” Sofia, the youngest of the trio, says.
“I stepped into the boxing ring just eight months ago, but the coaches have taught me well enough and I can compete with full might at the South Asian Games.”
The PBF decided to promote the boxers after a conference of the International Boxing Association (AIBA) in which the global body pushed for the representation of the female fighters.
Earlier, team manager Iqbal Hussain, while talking to Dawn, said that Khoushleem, Rukhsana and Sofia have been training together in Islamabad for the last four months and following a strict regimen.
“The girls wake up at 5.30 in the morning and train until the evening. They are in bed by eight only to repeat the cycle. It is their strict discipline which gives us great confidence about our prospects at the South Asian Games,” he said.
Khoushleem, Rukhsana and Sofia will feature in the 51, 60 and 75kg categories respectively and were selected after a nationwide scouting program.