KUALA LUMPUR (17 October 2018): Standing at just 1.60m and sporting a black hijab, it’s hard to miss the diminutive figure of Rakhmatul Fuadah.
Making her debut for Amanjaya BC in the Purple League Junior (PLJ 2018), Rakhmatul, is one to catch the eye as one of the few hijab-wearing player in the new PLJ 2018 season which began with Match Day 1, last Saturday.
The 19-year-old Indonesian from Grisek, East Java is currently making waves in her first appearance in the PLJ as she played a vital role in helping her team make a winning start. She contributed eight points overall as her team took control of Division Two.
Rakhmatul started off with an impressive win over Sabah's Arena Satu Samin, the Grand Final Youth Circuit champion who was representing Ayer Itam Badminton Club. Rakhmatul won 3-2 (9-11, 11-3, 11-10, 4-11, 11-9).
Despite putting on a gutsy display in her following match, Rakhmatul went down to Desa Petaling Badminton Club's Tan Min Er 2-3 (10-11, 2-11, 11-5, 11-10, 9-11). She, however, more then made up for that defeat when she wrapped up her weekend outplaying Lee Xin Jie of Serdang Badminton Club, 3-1 (11-10, 8-11, 11-10, 11-8) on Sunday.
Rakhmatul revealed that with the encouragement and recommendation of her local badminton club Fifa, she took up the challenge to make her foray overseas and started with the PLJ.
"The management of my club, Fifa recommended me to Amanjaya BC. So far, I have had no problems fitting in as they are all easy going and always very supportive," Rakhmatul.
"I like playing in the Purple League Junior as it gives me the opportunity to test myself against the best players from other countries. It’s certainly not easy but I’m learning new things every day.”
With more Muslim athletes making a name for themselves on the global stage, evidenced by the rise of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov and Ibtihaj Muhammad, who was the first American athlete wearing the hijab to clinch a medal (bronze) in fencing in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Seeing athletes competing in the hijab these days does not seem so strange.
For, Rakhmatul, being an athlete does not mean she has to choose between her religion and sports. Rather she has managed a fine balancing act between the two in her quest to be the best in her chosen field.
"As a Muslim, it is my religious obligation to cover my aurat. Wearing a hijab is not a hindrance for me as I’m used to it, it doesn’t make me uncomfortable. Rather, it provides me the added inner strength to face my opponent," Rakhmatul said.
Harbouring dreams of making a name for herself on the international stage, Rakhmatul is on the right path after having won the O2SN (Olimpiade Olahraga Siswa Nasional), Premier Under-19, a national age group tournament in Indonesia.
But for now she is determined to follow in the footsteps of her idol, Nozomi Okuhara, the World No 7 from Japan.
"I like to watch all good players, and one of them is Nozomi. She is built very much like me, short but a fighter.
"I have already represented Indonesia at Under-19 level. My next target is the Kejuarnas (national championships). From there, I hope to progress and make it to the national squad, Insya Allah (God Willing)" she added.