I smash assumptions.

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Cheerleading for Kabbadi-playing Hijabis and other great pictures


While doing some research on the sexualization of female athletes, I came across one of my favourite images. This picture always makes me laugh. It is a shot of the Iran women’s Kabbadi team at the 2010 Asian Games in Ghouangzhou, China in November 2010.

The juxtaposition of the scantily-clad cheerleaders performing for a team of conservative Muslim women is fantastic. 

The cheerleaders are there to support and encourage the athletes and entertain the spectators. They are representing the generous hosts of the Asian Games. 

Clearly, the Iran women’s team are thrilled.  

These women are fierce competitors and are also required to cover during competition according to Iran’s Laws and requirements for athletes representing the country. 

Interesting that the cheerleaders presented at a women’s event. I have yet to see cheerleaders active in sports other than major men’s leagues.

I wonder if this is a victory for women’s cheerleaders and female competitions that their events have merited such high-energy support and vigor.

Or maybe not.

I understand that cheerleading is a sport as well. It requires agility, balance, immense strength and teamwork. I am just wondering whether the cheerleaders were, you know..terrified or something. 

Hopefully not. Why would a team of fully covered, kabbadi players intimidate? Psssssssssssssht.

I enjoyed these images a lot. Without context and understanding of the sport they seem incredulous. 


That these hijab-clad women are violent, aggressive maybe part of some Islamic conspiracy to attack non-covered opponents and are in disdain of what surrounds them. 

In reality, they are very committed athletes in a sport that makes rugby seem like basket-weaving. In the above photo they are “taking down” a player from Team Malaysia. 

And below, the photo captures an Irani player being tackled by members from the Chinese Taipei team.


I really enjoy these pictures. They would definitely cast a doubt in the minds of those who associate hijab with demure, oppressed and disadvantaged Muslim women.

They smash assumptions.

So do these athletes.

They can kick some serious ass.

As much as I enjoy being cheered on and appreciate local customs -[because American-inspired cheerleading is commonplace in China (?!?!?!?!?)] , I may have pulled a face similar to these athletes while observing the cheerleaders dance. 

Are they really necessary? Really? At a kabbadi match?

I wonder if the next Asian Games, to be held in Incheon, South Korea in 2014 may offer similar- um- spirit. 

Nevertheless, the Asiad games were a success and I am revisiting some of the moments. Particularly interesting are some of the 14 sports that are not recognized in the Olympic Games but are often played in the world’s most populated regions.

Here are some more fantastic shots of the 2010 Asian Games.

Filed under Iran Malaysia Taipei kabbadi Asian Games Muslim Women Hijab Amazing Strong Cheerleaders headscarf

  1. bubliya said: haha that’s a really interesting picture! Hijabi athletes (like you! and them!) are just so kick-ass
  2. footybedsheets posted this