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September 16, 2005

Minister, Mayor backs British Muslim football team

Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, says she is delighted to send a message in support of the UK Muslim Women’s futsal (five-a-side football) team attending the Fourth International Islamic Women's Games in Tehran, reports The Muslim News.

"Sport defines us as a nation. We learn self-discipline and teamwork from it. It gets us fit and helps keep us healthy. It forms a central part of the cultural and recreational aspects of our lives," said Jowell, whose remit includes sports.

Her support comes ahead of a group of 15 British women are traveling to Tehran on Tuesday to compete in the futsal (five-a-side football) competition at the games.

In 2001, with the aid of The Muslim News, Britain became the first non-Muslim nation to participate in the International Islamic Women’s Games when they competed in Badminton as well as futsal events.

In her message, the Culture Secretary said that millions of people were involved in sports as players, coaches, officials and organizers.

"As both a constituency MP and as Secretary of State for Sport, I see sports projects achieve extraordinary results at both a local and national level. But, for various reasons, some people miss out on the opportunity to enjoy sport," she said.

In reference to women, Jowell said that they were "19 per cent less to take part in sport and physical activity than men," but added with regards to women's football, it had become "the fastest growing sport in the UK."

In her statement, she also thanked The Muslim News for once again sponsoring and organising the futsal team to participate in the games and said that she would like to wish "the very best of luck to everyone participating in this festival."

The futsal team’s participation was also backed by the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, who said that he wished them every success at the games.

Livingstone said that the Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation (MWSF), set up by The Muslim News last year, is to be “commended for its work and achievements.”

“The Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation provides an important and unique opportunity to showcase the sporting talent of Muslim women in the UK,” he said.

Further support came from London 2012, established to back Britain’s successful bid to stage the Olympic Games in seven years time.

Deborah Jevans, Director of Sports of London 2012 and member of the International Olympic Committee's Women and Sport Commission, said she was delighted to endorse the work of MWSF.

“Your organisation's efforts to develop a foundation from which a highly successful team can be nurtured, and to provide a lasting legacy for Muslim women in this country are highly commendable and have the full support of London 2012,” Jevan said.

She also pointed out that her Commission's aim is to raise awareness of the need to ensure equality between men and women, to provide women with wider access to sports, as well as encouraging them to take leadership positions in sports administration.


“It is an honour and privilege to represent Britain once again at an international level,” Rimla Akhtar, Captain of the Futsal team, who has been playing football since she her childhood, told The Muslim News. “The Islamic Women’s Games enables us to play for our country which would not have been possible otherwise,” said Akhtar, who will stark work as an associate at Pricewaterhouse-Coopers on her return from Iran.

"These Games have given me the opportunity to represent who I am - a British Muslim - whilst playing a sport that I love," Samana Fazel, member of the British Muslim Women's Futsal Squad told The Muslim News. "We all [the Squad] understand the importance of our roles and the way in which we can shape the future of sport in the lives of Muslim women all around the country. It's a great honour and a great responsibility," she said. Another member, Faiza Akmal, said that being part of the squad had enabled her to play sport in an environment that does not contradict my religion. "I am able to show the general British public that Muslim women are empowered," she said.

The team’s coach, Yolandi Taylor, said that the team felt confident during practice matches. "It is a pleasure to work with this squad. These girls are greatly determined and work with an unwavering pride of representing their country. We are hoping to do really well," she told The Muslim News.

“The players have to be congratulated to have persevered with little financial support. We have a large data base of Muslim women wanting to participate in other sports but are unable to do so due to lack of resources,” said Editor of The Muslim News, Ahmed J Versi.


FUTSAL PARTICIPANT DETAILS

CO-ORDINATOR: AHMED J VERSI (Editor The Muslim News)

COACH: YOLANDI CLARE TAYLOR, BRIGHTON

SUPERVISOR: FEHMIDA MURTAZA VERSI, WATFORD

TEAM CAPTAIN: RIMLA AKHTAR, 21, LONDON


Players (by alphabetical order) – age and city of residence

1. AISHA AHMAD, 24, BIRMINGHAM
2. AMMAARAH AMEJEE, 20, LONDON
3. AYESHA AMINA LATIFF ABDEEN, 22, LONDON
4. BILKEES SHIVJI, 20, MILTON KEYNES
5. FAIZA AKMAL, 22, LONDON
6. SALMA DEWAN, 17, LONDON
7. SAMANA FAZEL, 21, LEICESTER
8. SHABAANA MUSTAQALI MOLEDINA, 24, LEICESTER
9. SOPHIA AMEJEE, 21, LONDON,
10. SUMAYA MARHOON, 21, LONDON,
11. ZAINAB WALJI, 20, LONDON
12. ZAYNAB MURTAZA VERSI, 18, WATFORD



For further information contact us on 020 8863 8586 or 077 68 241 325. Please acknowledge The Muslim News when using the press release

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