Laiba Masood and Hamda Masood, known as ‘Dangal sisters’, are Pakistani multi-sport athlete sisters who are dominating games ranging from tennis to kabaddi, a traditional indulgence in the sub-continent, considered a male dominant sport.
Much like India’s famous wrestling Phogat Sisters - on whose life Bollywood film Dangal was made - the Masood Sisters in Pakistan are grateful to their father who never missed a chance to help them develop into excellent athletes.
From table tennis to badminton, the Masood sisters have been dominating the sports fields for years, but the real challenge came when they decided to play kabaddi.
“I was a little confused. Honestly, I never thought we’d play kabaddi. The credit goes to our father who encouraged us to give it a try,” Laiba Masood, elder sister, told Al Arabiya English.
“I still remember looking right into my father’s eyes when he asked us to change into our sports kits for kabaddi trials: ‘Did you say Kabaddi?’ We weren’t too excited, because to us the sport was just men rolling their shorts in mud,” Laiba added. The younger sister, Hamda, however, looked it from woman empowerment angle.
“When my dad announced that we had to give trials, we were truly surprised. I mean it was a whole new experience; we had our concerns as females; it seemed against our society norms and traditions but once I stepped on to the matt and learned the tactics, I grew comfortable with the sport and realized how much it empowered me and all females as a whole, breaking the stereotypes that women can’t play tough.”
Their father knew they didn’t like playing kabaddi. “But I was sure both would make it into Pakistan’s national kabaddi team after the little bit of training.” Rai Masood Kharal, the Masood sisters’ father told Al Arabiya English.
As foretold by their father, both sisters impressed the selection committee which ultimately brought them to Pakistan’s national kabaddi team. The challenge had just begun though.
Like the movie Dangal itself, they had to wake up at 4:30 am and run for miles before practice sessions to teach them Kabbadi techniques would begin. This would be followed by regular school routine.
“Who can ignore pressure from a male dominant society? Even our close relatives didn’t accept the idea of two young girls being trained to become players of kabaddi,” said Hamda. However, their father kept supporting and motivating them all along.
“I believed in their potential. It was not easy for them to balance between study and sports, but they did it. I am really proud of both of them,” said Mr. Masood, who works as deputy director in Lahore Electric Supply Company.
Masood’s daughters didn’t disappoint him. Their hard work yielded fruit eventually and they were selected for Pakistan’s U19 free-style kabaddi team.
“You can’t imagine my feelings soon after they won ‘Gold Medal’. I was jumping and dancing. They made me fly in the air. It was such a proud moment for all of us,” an emotional Masood said.
It was then that the sisters rose to fame nationwide as Pakistan’s “Dangal sisters”. The relationship between the two sisters seems to be a reason behind their success. “I’m lucky to have an elder sister like her. She is very supportive. We support each other when we participate in events,” said Hamda Masood.
Pakistan’s ‘Dangal Sisters’ also have a word of advise for Pakistani women.
“Embrace your identity. You can prosper, rise and shine if you believe in something, be it academics or sports. Allah has blessed women with the ability to multitask.”