Against the odds: Bahraini woman bodybuilder eyes Portugal

The sky’s the limit for Bahraini woman bodybuilder who ranked sixth in a Dubai competition

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On Tuesday, Bahraini Haifa al-Musawi ranked 6th in the International Natural body Building Association (INBA) World Championship for women’s bodybuilding in Dubai.

While many would say her rank was good, as this was Musawi’s first competition, and in a sport not typical for Arab women to take part in, whether on a cultural or professional level, she says she is not convinced by the score.


“Scoring the 6th rank is not very good,” the 32-year-old with buffed muscles told Al Arabiya News, citing unfair judging as another reason for her disdain.

“I do not feel this competition was fair. There was bias for other [Western] nationalities, and I am sure - 100 percent sure. And I do not mind confronting them,” she added.

The Dubai-based personal trainer said the judges did not even make any eye contact with her. And she said people at the competition who she did not know expressed “shock”, saying they saw her as the most deserving to be in the top three.

“I had more muscles and symmetry,” she said, adding “[on others] there was even some muscles and legs that were not developed properly. I do not see on what basis they were chosen.”

“When you see women bodybuilders, you want to see mass, lean muscles on stage, you do not want to see a person just flexing.”


But despite Musawi complaints, she was still able to reflect on the experience positively, describing her experience in the competition as “beautiful” and “adding a lot” to her as a person.

Next time? Embracing Portugal

Musawi, who is used to beating the odds - including shedding 30 kgs when she was a teen - still hopes for more.

She is now determined to get her pro card, a status any bodybuilder covets, as it allows entry to professional competitions and international prizes. It also allows competitors to join the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB).

But to participate in competitions that could quality her for the golden pro card, she needs to represent her country and Bahrain currently does not allow its female nationals to take part in such sports, and that leaves her with one option – representing another country, in her case Portugal.

“[Bahraini] women bodybuilders, we are not allowed, I do not know why, it is a policy and not a law,” she said.

Instead, Musawi is moving to Portugal soon to register under the Portuguese bodybuilding federation.

Asked if non-citizens were allowed to represent Portugal, she explained: “Yes, they can. I will be living there for a while as well to get some residency.”


However, Musawi said she would be exhilarated to represent her own country.

“At the end of the day, I will feel better and more proud to represent Bahrain or even the UAE or any other Arab country because we are changing history,” she said. “It is a big thing to be a on the stage, it takes a lot of effort, a lot of science, biology.”

In Portugal, Musawi will have her friend and trainer Andrea Sousa to prepare her for the upcoming competition against the odds and comments that could bring her down.

“We hear a lot of criticism and many comments about women bodybuilders. That they are not feminine, but what measures femininity? Sport does not,” she said.

“If we think that the condition to be masculine is to be muscular, then this means 90 percent of men are not men because they do not have muscles,” she added. “Femininity is being a woman, simply a woman, that's all.”

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