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Zainab Alema Is Working On Making History As The First Black, Muslim Woman Rugby Player

Zainab Alema Is Working On Making History As The First Black, Muslim Woman Rugby Player

She’s well on her way!

Zainab Alema is working on making history as the first Black, Muslim woman rugby player, Joe news reports.

Alema is a neonatal nurse and mother of three. Since she was a young girl, she’s always loved rugby, and as an adult, she began playing for Barnes RFC in southwest London. During a recent interview with House of Rugby, Alema revealed that her goal is to become the first Black Muslim woman rugby player to play for England.

“I was 14 when I first got my hands on a rugby ball, and I fell in love...I want to be the first Black Muslim woman to play for England. I actually only decided during lockdown,” Alema said. 

It wasn’t until her time in college that she began taking the sport seriously, experiencing what she called a “culture shock,” leaving her feeling a little out of place.

“I was the only Black person in my team, the only Muslim person in my team, and I was the only one that didn’t drink on my team. There was a lot going on, and I really felt out of place,” Alema said. 

It was the rugby laws that helped her feel more connected to the sport. 

“It said there in Black and white under the clothing section that you can wear a headscarf to play. And for me, it was such a relief because up until that time, I didn’t feel like I belonged just because I didn’t see anyone that looked like me,” she said. 

Currently, Alema is dealing with a hamstring injury, but she has continued to train, even while fasting during Ramadan. 

“You have to be careful and know your body. I train close to sunset, so I can break my fast, and then sometimes I train after I break my fast. I don’t do anything silly like going for a run during the day because that’s not really advisable,” she explained. 

Alema hopes her story will inspire others coming after who are Black, woman, and minority players to get into the sport of rugby, saying, “I truly believe that if I get in that England shirt, I’m going to open up rugby to a new audience, people that I’m trying to reach out to play rugby will then be thinking, ‘Oh, look at Z, she’s a Black woman, she’s wearing a hijab, she’s playing rugby. Maybe I can give it a go.”

We are all cheering for you, Zainab!

Photo Courtesy of @zeealema/Instagram