Coach laments lack of support for women's sports

Najaf athlete Afak Faiq secures bronze in West Asian Athletics Championship

NAJAF — Afak Faiq, an athlete from Najaf, secured third place in the discus throw event at the recent West Asian Athletics Championship held at Basra Sports City.

Faiq, who continues to hold the Iraqi record for discus throw, earned a Master’s degree in Physical Education from the University of Kufa. She has participated in numerous national and international championships, garnering many medals over the past decade.

“I started practicing sports in 2008 with handball and five-a-side football,” Faiq said. “In 2011, I shifted to track and field events. My first achievement was securing third place in the Directorate of Education Championships.”

Faiq highlighted the societal challenges she faced. “One of the challenges was society’s rejection of women participating in sports,” she explained. “There was also a lack of infrastructure and equipment for female athletes, in addition to the absence of financial support.”

Faiq has achieved success in various sports, including handball and basketball. “In track and field, I have consistently been in the top three in discus throw for the past ten years,” she noted. “I held the Iraqi record and recently secured third place in the West Asia Championship, which had an audience after Iraq had not organized it for a long time.”

Reflecting on her career, Faiq expressed mixed feelings. “If I could turn back time, I wouldn’t choose this sport because it’s tough and the training is lengthy,” she admitted. “There’s also the issue of insufficient infrastructure supporting women in this sport, reliance on personal efforts, and high psychological pressure.”

Despite her achievements, Faiq pointed out a lack of recognition. “The province didn’t celebrate my accomplishment,” she said. “I play for the Peshmerga Club in Sulaymaniyah, and it has been a wonderful experience. The club is committed to paying all financial entitlements.”

Dr. Ammar Maki Al-Najm, Faiq’s coach and academic instructor, spoke to 964media about her talent. “I discovered Afak’s talent in the Directorate of Education Championship, and her achievement in West Asia is a crowning of her accomplishments. This should have happened a long time ago, and she has managed to win medals on Iraqi soil. She is dedicated to her training,” he said.

Maki pointed out the difficulties faced by female athletes in Najaf, particularly in southern Iraq. “The female element in Najaf faces difficulties in terms of training and communication, especially in southern Iraq, where there are no female staff. The situation is different in Kurdistan, which supports these sports,” he noted.

He also commented on Iraq’s sports policies, emphasizing the need to support individual sports. “Iraq’s policy focuses on supporting football only, but individual sports are also important for the country’s achievements, provided there is a plan to invest in them,” Maki concluded.

The West Asian Athletics Championships, organized by the West Asian Athletics Association, is a biennial event featuring top athletes from various countries in the region competing in a range of track and field events. The recent edition, held at Basra Sports City in Iraq, marked the country’s return to hosting major athletic events. Participating countries included Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.