Newsbytheway's Blog

January 14, 2010

Boxing the beard ban

Filed under: Religion,Sports — Rabea Khan @ 5:52 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Muslim and Sikhs amateur boxers are all set for a fight. But, this fight will be outside the ring and against the body that represents them.

Copyright: Elmarto; Source: Flickr

The Amateur Boxing Association of England (ABAE) has recently ruled that all boxers need to be clean shaved. Their reason: it’s for the health and safety of the boxers. The ban is the outcome of appeal filed by a Muslim boxer last  year. He was stopped from playing even though Sikhs were allowed to have facial hair.

There is little logic in the association’s newfound allergy to facial hair as beards are allowed in the professional ring.

And most important question is why now? If the beard was harmful they should have been banned from the beginning. Why it took a Muslim to make them realize that beards are unsafe? It casts a shadow over intentions of the association. Is it their way of keeping ‘radical muslim’ away from the game?

Majority of the sports in the world have no issues with facial hairs. But there have been few exceptions.

Talking baseball, till 1999  Cincinnati Reds had a ban on any kind of facial hair. Rules changed with change of ownership.  Greg Vaughn loved his goatee and persuaded the new owner Marge Schott to remove the ban.

New York Yankees baseball team also prohibits long hair and facial hair.

In Irish football, there is ban on growing more than two inches of facial hair. This was the outcome of an ugly fight between the two players when one pulled the other down by his beard.

These rules and decisions are fair and acceptable since they do not have any religions undertones. They are been enforced for the sake of practicality and discipline. It wasn’t a Muslim on the field that instigated the a ban.

Players love of beards

It is sort of a tradition in certain sports where players allow their beards to grow from the beginning of the playoff season and they don’t touch the shavers until the playoffs are over. One such example is National Hockey League where teams that follows the supersition of playoff beards religiously.

Source: picapp

Many other sportsmen also shun their shavers for the sake of style. Beard was a rage in 2007 rugby world cup. English playerGeorge Chute made headlines and the French player, Sebastien Chabal, was even nicknamed ‘caveman’ when they sported beards.

When Beckham grew a beard last year it became talk of the town. Many made fun of his latest style statement. But words like ‘ban’ and ‘safety’ were not mentioned at all.

And Cricket has Monty Panesar, Saeed Anwar, Hashim Amla and many others who have a beard for religious reasons.

So why when a Muslim boxer sports a beard, it suddenly becomes a contentious issue. It is time to look beyond religious identities and let the deserving player play the game. We can keep religion out of sports at least.


January 8, 2010

OPEN: Confessions of a dangerous mind

Filed under: Sports — Rabea Khan @ 12:16 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I have just finished reading Open. Empty and sad… I am not describing the book but the feeling I am left with now when the book is over. It’s that good.

Copyright: Chris Josefy, Source: Wikipedia

Andre Agassi’s autobiography is brutally honest, where he lets the reader peek into not only his life but his mind as well.

You are left wanting for more, wanting to know him more, wanting to share few more anecdotes…

The book covers his career right from the very beginning to his last match. He underlines his hatred for tennis quite a number of times in the book. Yet the book is an account of life in between various tournaments. This illustrates his passion. Even if he hated the game, he hated it with a passion. That passion in the end made him excel.

Agassi has made a player more human by laying bare his thoughts during numerous matches. Whenever one is watching any sport, one tends to think of people playing as mere players. They are players of course but they are human beings too. That might be thinking about their girlfriend, their parents in between sets, but that seems impossible to us.  They should be and they must be thinking about the game.

The book is full of inane things he used to think during matches. And also strategic thinking that decided the outcome of the match.

You would want to watch all those matches again, now that you know what was he thinking when he played that particular shot or how he felt when lost a match to Sampras.

Agassi’s love life

The book also mentions his various relationships over the years and he doesn’t choose to be private here as well.  If his marriage with Brooke Shields comes across as a mistake, he let you think he is a romantic fool when he pursues Steffi Graf. In fact his love for Graf is evident even before he marries Shields. When he marries Shields you almost wish to tell him, please don’t marry Brooke, you love Steffi.

Thankfully, he doesn’t sermonize or ponder at any point of time. The Book is all about ‘when’ and ‘what’ and not ‘why’.

Reading Open is like renewing your vows with tennis. You will fall in love with the game again…more so with Andre Agassi.

January 2, 2010

Sex, lies, videotapes and media

A head of state, 86-year-old politician, served as chief minister of two states, at one time he was a serious contender for being the Prime Minister. And he is caught on camera having a foursome.

Times of India Frontpage

The perfect reason for media in any country to go berserk.And why not? The story has all the right ingredients. He is so old that he can barely walk but was in bed with three women, one of them who is 7 months pregnant! He can’t even deny it since it’s all on tape.

Expect sensation. Expect controversy. Expect dirt from the past. Expect some more skeletons tumbling out of the closets. Expect confessions.

Wait a minute, I almost forgot, it happened in India. He is N D Tiwari, an Indian politician. Zip. All Indian public figures are saints.  Even if they get naughty at times, the media act as a tolerant parent, hit a stick or two on the knuckles and moves on.  Hence the top-selling Indian english dailies came out with the blandest headlines possible-

Times of India: N D Tiwari denies role in sex tape. (Obviously he is going to deny it)

Hindustan Times: Andhra guv battles sex taint (Makes him  sounds like a hero almost)

Only Indian Express showed some courage by having a sarcastic headline “His sexellency?”

But imagine if something like this would have had happened in UK or US.  Actually you don’t need to imagine. Think Bill Clinton or Tiger Woods more recently.

I bet Tiger wished he was an Indian.  If he were, the entire incident would have only appeared as an accident in the papers.  Bribe the policemen and they will say what you want them to say to the media.  And the media will accept it wholeheartedly. Say ‘no comments’, and they won’t bother you.  No interview from past girlfriends. No smses or voice mails to worry about. Public apology on the website? Are you crazy ?? God doesn’t apologies.

Media-celebrity nexus in India

Celebrities are untouchable in India.  They are literally stars. Be it actors, cricketers, politician or industrialist.  You can admire them from a distance never knowing what happens when they not acting, playing or doing they respective jobs. There is no concept of paparazzi. I am sure many came to know the term ‘paparazzi’ in India only when Lady Diana’s death hit the headlines worldwide.

But then we don’t want paparazzi in India.  What we want is a courageous journalism where spade is called a spade without any fear. Not in the name of sensationalism but truth.

December 10, 2009

Agassi out in ‘open’

I went to see a legend; a tennis star whom I idolize. I came back meeting a not-so-perfect man who confessed that he is a liar.  And yet I adore him, even more now.

Copyright Rabea Khan 2009

It was a Q&A session organized by Sunday Times.  Andre Agassi was in conversation with David Walsh (chief sports writer, Sunday Times.) about his autobiography ‘Open’.

I expected it to be interesting since the book has already created so much controversy. But it surpassed all my expectations and how.

Agassi spoke without any inhibitions. He was a storyteller on the stage captivating his audience with his honesty and sense of humour.  He got up from his chair time-to-time and impersonated other tennis players to illustrate his stories. Agassi spellbound the audience with his anecdotes and everyone loved him for been so candid.

But more importantly, the session reinstated the fact that it’s not a perfect world. Not even for Agassi who has got money, fame and everything else. Look closely, and you’ll find nothing extraordinary about his life story.

It’s about a man whose father chose his life for him. A man who hates his job…who gets jealous when he sees his girlfriend getting intimate with someone else, even if she is an actor doing her job.

What makes the story astonishing is the impossibility of it. We never expect a celebrity to be burdened by these mundane issues.  Agassi broke those myths of a perfect life of a celebrity. Grass is not always green on the other side, well in this case, a tennis court.

Sampras Vs Agassi Senior

Agassi shared one very interesting incident that didn’t make it to the book, which involves his father Mike Agassi and his archrival Pete Sampras.

Mike never used to come for any of his son’s matches. He thought that would make him nervous and affect his performance. One time he broke the tradition and went to see the match between Agassi and Sampras. At that stage, Agassi had an upper hand and Sampras was under pressure.

It was Sampras’ serve and suddenly a phone rings breaking his concentration. He tried to re-focus and serve again. Phone is still ringing. He then loses it and shouts at the stands behind him.  “ Will you answer your phone?”. Turns out it was Agassi senior who was trying to dig out the phone from his bag. A boxing champion, it would have been out of his character if he didn’t retort. He yells back,

“ It is my phone, I will answer it as and when I please, kiss my a**”.

The book is full of such amusing incidents that will brings you closer to the person, Agassi.  And if this session was a trailer, I bet the book will a blockbuster.

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