Boxing for girls? In Jordan? You bet! And we meet one of the pioneers pushing forward to make it happen across the Kingdom.
When you first meet Reem Al Shammari you meet a well presented and smart looking young woman. And when she talks, you listen.
For Reem is making a name for herself in a sport that few would give any hope to surviving, let alone thriving, across Jordan.
But boxing has become a phenomenon in Jordan and it is fast catching taekwondo as our national individual sport. And that is down to the likes of Reem ensuring it breaks down the traditional gender barrier.
“I accept that it is a sport associated to men and boys but why can’t we play it? There is nothing stopping us?” said the confident 27 year-old,
“I have always loved sport but it was in university in 2009 that I tried boxing when I had a course with my PE studies and I loved it. The lecturer was underestimating the girls who tried it so I saw this as my first challenge.
“Boxing is an exceptional sport. It's a sport that refines the soul. People have their misunderstandings about girls who play boxing.”
Reem has always enjoyed her sport. She finished fourth Arab in the Dead Sea Ultra Marathon in 2011 but decided after finishing fourth in the walking event at the 2012 Pan Arab Games in Doha to dedicate her time to boxing.
It has not been an easy ride. There have been obstacles and issues along the way but she has kept going.
“When you love sport, there is no power that will take it out from you, that’s why I love boxing,” she said.
With new Algerian head coach Azzedine Aggoune in charge of the National Team, Reem even had a go at qualifying for the Olympics in Rio, where two Jordanian men – Hussein Ishaiash and Obada Al Kesbeh – represented the Kingdom.
Although falling short, the experience she gained from the qualifications as well as competing in the World Championships will stand her in good stead.
She is now awaiting to see what part of the Federation’s plans she will play as boxing looks to qualify more boxers to Tokyo 2020.
“The federation will decide on a plan but my ambitions are unlimited,” she said. “I am preparing for the 2018 World Championships. I will prove that Jordanian female boxers will be strong competitors, especially as it will be held before the Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualifications, and I wish to be part of it.”
She said that women are not boxing because of a lack of awareness and the misconceptions associated with such a contact sport.
“Boxing is far away from being violent. It changes your character and refines you. It has a big role in my current personality and I am proud to be a boxer,” she said.
Al Shammari is going to establish a boxing section in her local club in order to encourage girls to play. She sends a strong message to all girls to “give boxing a go” and not to be put off by people claiming it is “just for boys”.
“Parents must be educated about women’s boxing before they refuse their girls to play it. I am sure many would change their minds when they see the benefits.”
Away from her training, she likes to eat Musakhan while her role model in sport is Mary Com, an Indian boxer who overcame all obstacles to become a five-time world champion.
The Jordan Olympic Committee has worked tirelessly under the Presidency of HRH Prince Feisal Al Hussein to promote gender equality in sport so the role of iconic figures like Reem should never be underestimated.
As we look to get 20 athletes for 2020, just imagine the global message that would be sent if Reem was one of those? She will certainly be giving it her best shot.