Hijab-clad Karate maestro Shaheen Akhtar becomes first female officiating referee at Hangzhou Asian Gamestext_fields
Mumbai: Shaheen Akhtar, a 52-year-old 4-time National Champion in Karate, has been appointed as the first and only woman 'Officiating Referee' at the 19th Hangzhou 2023 Asian Games in China.
The hijab-clad karate maestro, whose journey in martial arts spans over four decades, will wield her expertise and authority from October 5-7, overseeing the men's and women's Karate events, where top champions from 42 Asian countries are set to compete.
Shaheen's journey began at the age of 13 when she first learned the fundamental kicks, stances, punches, blocks, and chops as a schoolgirl at the Christ Church School in Byculla.
Shaheen is a grandmother, whose daughter Sana Hava and son Ayaan Ansari are also National Champions in Karate.
Her passion for Karate only grew as she pursued her B.Com degree at H.R. College, Churchgate. Today, she stands as an icon in the world of Karate, earning medals and honours both as a participant and a referee at various championships, including the Youth League, Premier League, South Asian Championships, Asian Championships, Commonwealth Championships, and World Championship events.
In an exclusive interview with IANS, Shaheen expressed her excitement and acknowledged the immense responsibility that comes with her new role. "It's a very crucial responsibility," she emphasized. "Handling pressure will be the most critical part of my assignment when over two billion pairs of eyes from all over Asia will scrutinize my every move and decision."
As the Officiating Referee, Shaheen's duties will include maintaining control inside the ring, ensuring that competitors adhere to the rules of the game, and meeting warnings and penalties when necessary. "My job will be to control these rivals in the ring, command them to obey and adhere to the rules of the games," she explained.
Shaheen's appointment not only marks a historic moment for women in sports but also highlights her remarkable journey from being a National Champion to becoming the highest and most qualified female referee in the World Karate Federation and Asian Karate Federation in India and South Asia.
Shaheen is using her vast experience to groom future champions and referees through her academy, 'Shaheen’s Academy of Martial Arts' (SAMA), affiliated with Karate India Organisation. She hopes to inspire the younger generation to take up Karate as a serious career option and unlock India's untapped potential in the sport.