Exclusive -- Anam Fatima, a revolutionary female equestrian talks about taking on the male dominated sport
Anam's competition is usually found in personnel from armed and police forces. Her undeterred ability to face such competition in a male-dominated game is exemplary.
"Somewhere behind the athlete you've become, the hours of practice, and the coaches who have pushed you, is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back." This quote by Mia Hamm perfectly describes the tenacious Anam.
An exemplary equestrian from Agra, Anam Fatima is a huge inspiration for young people everywhere. She has been taking part extensively in Tent Pegging - an equestrian discipline in Indian tournaments, where her talent is exponentially greater than other equestrians as not only does she compete against men in their category but also beats them as well.
Anam's competition is usually found in personnel from armed and various state police forces. Her undeterred ability to face such competition in a male-dominated game is exemplary.
In a chat with this formidable duo, Anam and her coach Mr Azeem SiddiquI, we got to know about horsemanship, challenges of the sports and a lot more
Anam, what got you into horsemanship and equestrian sport?
Anam I love animals and have been fond of horses since childhood, but never got a chance to ride a horse. When I joined Aligarh Muslim University, I came to know about its unique Horse-riding club, and the army discipline it offers. I had already completed the NCC ‘C’ Certificate examination by then and the same environment directed my interest towards the club. I learnt riding at AMURC in 2018 and afterwards came to know about Tent Pegging, so I joined a private club, Royal Riding Club to practice more for the National level, Mr. Azeem Siddiqui guided me for different opportunities in the equestrian world.
What role did the esteemed AMURC play in your equestrian journey?
Anam AMURC is the beginning of my equestrian life. I sat on a horse for the first time at AMURC. I used to go there for regular practice before college hours and missed horses for the rest of the day. It wouldn't be right if I don't extend my thanks to my AMURC coach Mahavir Singh, as he was the one on the field guiding me all the time. It was his strictness that helped me to learn horse riding so quickly. Sometimes I used to be the only girl on the ground, but I never felt weak as he always treated me equally.
Your coach, Mr. Azeem Siddiqui is a huge supporter of girls in the sport, tell us about his journey with you.
Anam Mr. Azeem Siddiqui boosted my confidence since I took my first step for Tent Pegging. He made me realize that I can learn it very soon and play for ‘Pentagrand 2021’ within 2 months. I was not confident about myself learning the sport in just 2 months, especially since people take at least 6-7 months to learn the basics. However, he never made me feel any different from my male counterparts in this sport. He always motivated me during practice and developed confidence in me.
How do you feel about playing against male competitors? Does it affect your horsemanship or your performance as an equestrian?
Anam I do not feel any different about it. Yes, it happens most of the time that I am the only girl on the ground, but this only boosts my confidence and empowers me to bring more girls on the ground.
Anam, this sport is quite expensive, how much does finding sponsorships play a part in your career as an equestrian?
Anam No doubts, this sport is really expensive for a student to afford, especially since the government is not playing any role in financing it for civilians but I have played past events on sponsorships. Although it is really difficult to find a sponsor for every event, I luckily found one for both the events I played till now including ‘Pentagrand 2021’ where AMU Alumni Sayed Massarrat Ali, who is based in the US along with Noida-based sports promotion brand “Equiwings Sports” sponsored me. Also “Shahji Milk” sponsored me for the All-India Level ‘Delhi Horse Show 2021’.
Explain your training process, also how do you juggle it with your research and studies?
Anam It is not really tough to manage my studies, independent research and training because I enjoy them all together and not individually. I experience happiness and soundness when I ride horses, it gives me the motivation to concentrate on my studies. For my research, I would say that I don’t enjoy studies that are done in a closed room. I like to know the reality of what is beyond the textbooks, so I love to research more. I love to do surveys, conduct interviews and know about people and draw conclusions. I definitely have to manage my time and energy for the same. I wake up early to do these all together in a day.
Tell us about you wearing a hijab while competing, what is its significance to you?
Anam It makes me comfortable and confident. I feel complete and peaceful with it. Years back I used to think that hijab is not easy to carry anywhere, but I believe in cross-checking, so once I decided to try it and since that day it has become a comfort and part of my life. Now I wear it while playing tent pegging where I use weapons like sword and lance while mounted on a galloping horse and I never experienced any hurdle with it. I check it for safety before going on ground, so if I can wear it while performing tent pegging then how can it stop anyone from doing anything else in this world.
What do you think you can do to encourage more girls in equestrian sports?
Anam For this, I must prove myself first by playing at higher levels and secure top positions in different equestrian competitions. Then I can conduct workshops at different places and schools especially targeting girls where I can also invite parents and counsel them to bring their girls in this sport.
Anam's Coach Mr. Azeem Siddiqui is her hero and guide. A short interview;
Mr. Azeem Siddiqui, what differentiates Anam from the other boys and girls you train?
Azeem Usually, when someone comes in to learn they are scared to even mount the horse, but Anam was brave hearted from the beginning which is essential for the sport. She in her extremely limited experience with horse riding was able to compete and win positions in tournaments, which set her apart from the others.
How do you feel when Anam competes against men in these competitions and even manages to win?
Azeem I feel extremely proud that my student is participating in such huge tournaments, competing against men from police forces and armed forces and beating them in the sport. Especially since the competition is so tough, winning medals at a national level is quite hard.