All of us, at one point, are confronted with obstacles. Some are thrown at us for reasons we cannot control, like racism and sexism. And today’s History Hero Zeina Nassar has handled such obstacles remarkably well, tirelessly punching through prejudices as she rises to the top of her game.
Born and raised in Berlin, Germany, by Lebanese parents, Zeina at first saw boxing as dangerous—men beating each other up for no apparent reason. But when she witnessed women in the sport, their discipline and elegance fascinated her. She knew she needed to be in the ring, too.
Many people assume that combat sports and women don’t go together, however. This included Zeina’s own parents, at least initially. They relented when they recognized Zeina’s drive and rare talent, and how much practicing the sport had benefited her.
It taught her from an early age to take risks and accept responsibilities, making her more confident in daily life as a result. This inner strength served Zeina well when she was barred from competition for doing what no women had done before: wear a hijab into the ring.
That’s when she felt what it really meant to be a Muslim woman in a man’s world.
But wearing the hijab was her choice — no one force her to and no one was going to force her not to. She refused to take “no” for an answer.
She and her coach went to every conference, one at a time, and one by one, they force rule change, sparking a revolution in women’s competitive sports in the process. Thanks to them, female athletes may now wear the hijab. This has opened doors for sportswomen worldwide.
Zeina receives messages from people daily, thanking her for helping them conquer their fears and doubts. “It gives me so much pride, hope and happiness. It fuels my own motivation to fight. Not only in the ring. Not only for myself. But for all of us. For a brighter future.”
For the now 4 x German boxing champion, this is the most important triumph of her career!