Hmm, hate to say I told you so but way back in March, I expressed a similar thought. Of course, I merely stated Sania was 'more than a tennis player'. The New Statesman, described by HT as one of the 'most respected political-literary-cultural weeklies in the UK has listed Sania as one of the men and women who will "transform the world".
In his article on Sania, Jason Cowley writes about the “world-transforming potential of a young, attractive, articulate and media-smart teenage Muslim tennis star”. Like it or not the 'M' word has been used. The scarcity of Muslim women in any profession involving wearing of short skirts is glaring enough to lead to that reference.
But this being the NS, the idea is to see Sania — and her sport — as a symbol of a bigger, more sociologically significant phenomenon. “Muhammad Ali, Pele, Evonne Goolagong, Viv Richards, the so-called ghetto Cinderellas Venus and Serena Williams and the Chinese basketball star Yao Ming — these sporting icons, because of their fame, achievement and corporate power, have helped to transform the way mainstream sporting audiences think about race, gender and the old political structures that once controlled the games we play.
“Can Mirza have a similarly transformative effect, not only in India but also throughout the world? She may not have won a major tournament, yet already she occupies a role through which flow many of the most significant intellectual and cultural currents of our times: the clash between secularism and political Islam, the emancipation of women in the Muslim world, the dominance of celebrity, the tyranny of the image, the emergence of India as a world power,” Cowley writes.
Well, I would really like to buy into this - though Sania has a long way to go before she can be compared to Pele and Muhammad Ali in terms of sporting achievement. I personally believe she will get there but even if she doesn't reach the heights of a Serena Williams, I would not crucify her. She's gone further than any Indian woman has gone before in her sport.
Whenever she speaks I'm amazed she still has her young head on her shoulders. Which is more than can be said about our not-so-young (and far worse performing) cricketers.
Also on the New Statesman list: US Senator Barack Obama; physicist Anton Zeilinger; Iranian filmmaker Samira Makhmalbaf; environmentalist Aubrey Meyer; the Emir of Qatar; Kierra Box, “20-year-old politico-prodigy”; Net entrepreneur Brewster Kahle, Victoria Hale, whose healthcare group brings cheap medicine to the poor; and Mo Ibrahim, chief of the fastest growing mobile phone group in sub-Saharan Africa.
Glad to see a list of relatively unknown names... that itself is a welcome change in a run-of-the-mill-celeb-hungry media world!