Other Sports

Malaysia’s ‘Phoenix’ is breaking barriers

Striking a chord: Nor Diana pins down a male opponent during a match in Kuala Lumpur.

Striking a chord: Nor Diana pins down a male opponent during a match in Kuala Lumpur.   | Photo Credit: MOHD RASFAN

Hijab-clad wrestler uses sophisticated moves to take on her male opponents

A hijab-wearing, diminutive Malaysian wrestler known as “Phoenix” cuts an unusual figure in the ring, a female Muslim fighter taking on hulking opponents in a male-dominated world.

Dressed in flame-patterned trousers, a black and orange hijab and top, Nor Diana uses sophisticated moves to throw and pin down her larger rivals in front of hundreds of cheering spectators.

Standing just 155 cm tall and weighing 43 kg, her speed and agility make her a match for almost any opponent.

And far from being criticised by conservatives for throwing herself into wrestling, the 19-year-old has become a hit on social media and spurred the interest of other headscarf-wearing women.

“Even though I am Muslim, and I wear the hijab, nothing can stop me from doing what I love,” she said in the ring after winning a recent fight.

She takes part in Malaysia Pro Wrestling (MyPW), which has similarities with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) of U.S.

Nor Diana, a pseudonym as she prefers not to reveal her true identity, seems an unlikely wrestler — outside the ring, she is shy and soft-spoken, and her day job is working in a hospital.

But when she puts on her wrestling gear, she transforms into the fearsome Phoenix.

“As Phoenix, I’m a totally different person. She may be small, but she can do things that people can’t imagine,” said Ms. Nor Diana.

“When she’s in the ring, she’s fast and always wants to win,” she explained.

Growing popularity

Ms. Nor Diana first started training as a wrestler in late 2015, following her teenage dream of becoming a fighter, and made her debut a few months later.

More than 60% of Malaysia’s 32 million people are ethnic Malay Muslims and, while the form of Islam followed is generally moderate and tolerant, society can still be conservative.

Many Muslim women in the country wear the traditional headscarf and loose-fitting clothing in line with Islamic requirements for females to dress modestly.

“In the beginning it was always hard for me, because a lot of people said I can’t wrestle because I’m a Muslim and I wear the hijab,” she said.

But the fierce wrestler has soldiered on, with her family’s full support, and enjoyed her greatest success until now in early July when she defeated four men and got crowned Malaysian wrestling champion.

Initially she competed wearing a mask, to reduce the chances people would recognise her. But after losing a match last year she removed it and has been competing without one ever since.

She remembered being fearful about the reaction — but her popularity has only increased since, with thousands now following her on social media, helping to boost wrestling’s profile in Malaysia.

A letter from the Editor


Dear reader,

We have been keeping you up-to-date with information on the developments in India and the world that have a bearing on our health and wellbeing, our lives and livelihoods, during these difficult times. To enable wide dissemination of news that is in public interest, we have increased the number of articles that can be read free, and extended free trial periods. However, we have a request for those who can afford to subscribe: please do. As we fight disinformation and misinformation, and keep apace with the happenings, we need to commit greater resources to news gathering operations. We promise to deliver quality journalism that stays away from vested interest and political propaganda.

Support Quality Journalism
Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 9:47:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/malaysias-phoenix-is-breaking-barriers/article28525527.ece

Next Story