Maldives’ female badminton champion Neela Ahmed Najeeb has alleged the Badmintion Association is refusing to allow her to train with the national team despite a court order to reinstate her membership.
The 25 year-old athlete, who holds a string of championship medals and has competed in several international competitions, was suspended from playing almost two years ago after clashing with her Indonesian coach, whom she said had attempted to make her run for four hours as punishment for missing a training session – something she was physically unable to do at the time.
“The Association unfairly and quite harshly terminated Neela without establishing adequate cause and without giving Neela the opportunity to defend herself,” Najeeb’s lawyer Mizna Shareef told Minivan News after the case was filed.
After three hearings Shareef claimed “the Badminton Association has stalled the case by appearing in court without having prepared their statements.”
The judgement, she said, would be a landmark case in encouraging more female players to play sport at a professional level, “without fear of discrimination and unfair treatment.”
Prior to her termination, Najeeb had been selected to travel to Greece in June last year for a youth training session conducted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), however this was scuttled by her dismissal as endorsement from the Association was required.
The Civil Court last month overturned the Association’s termination of Najeeb, ruling that it was against the Association’s own regulations, and ordered her reinstatement within seven days.
The Badminton Association gave her membership for the time she had missed, but she claimed it was now refusing to allow her to train with the national team “as there is no women’s pool.”
“I’ve been training with the guys for eight years and there’s been no other female in the national team. Now they’ve said I can’t start training because there is no women’s pool,” Najeeb said. “The Maldives International Challenge is coming up in June and I need to train in order to participate. But I have to be a man to practice.”
Najeeb said she had sought help from the Ministry of Human Resources and Sports, “but the Ministry said it was not able to help as the decision was up to the association.”
Other players were also facing situations where their athletic careers were being blocked by a lack of support from the Badminton Association, Najeeb said.
“There are players who have sponsors but are losing opportunities to compete outside the country because they are not receiving support from the association.”
A former female badminton player who played the sport for 25 years prior to suffering a ligament injury told Minivan News that the Badminton Association was obligated to provide female players a chance to play “even if there is only one of them.”
“If there are not enough female players for a pool they still have to be given a chance to play,” she claimed, adding that males and females had trained together in the Maldives for a long time.
President of the Badminton Association Ali Ameer said the association had followed the court order to the letter, “and has no further comment.”
Minister of Human Resources and Sports Hassan Latheef told Minivan News that it would be inappropriate for him to comment until he had informed himself on the case, but said he would do so.