herald

Monday 11 December 2017

An unlikely love match as Indian and Pakistani sports stars to marry

Think of Romeo and Juliet with a dash of Posh and Becks and a heavy dose of Bollywood melodrama.

Shoaib Malik, Pakistan's former cricket captain, is to marry Sania Mirza, India's top women's tennis player, despite being accused of marrying another woman and then dumping her for being fat.

Mr Malik and Ms Mirza, who are Muslim, are due to marry next month in a rare cross-border union between two of the South Asian rivals' most popular and controversial sports stars.

They met in February while Ms Mirza -- who had broken off an engagement to her childhood sweetheart the month before -- was playing in a tournament in Dubai, their families said yesterday.

"My wedding is going to be the biggest day of my life," Ms Mirza -- No 92 in the world rankings -- said in a statement released by her family.

"I have been in the media glare for too long and would appreciate a little privacy at this personal moment."

Ms Mirza (23) declined to comment further when she and her mother, Nasima, collected visas from the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi.

Ms Mirza's father, Imran, said that she would live with Mr Malik in Dubai, where he has residency. The announcement is all the more sensational because Mr Malik and Ms Mirza are among the two countries' most popular sporting and youth icons and have both been embroiled in a series of personal and professional controversies.

Ms Mirza has been criticised for wearing revealing outfits on court and advocating safe sex. Mr Malik (28), meanwhile, has been in a marriage dispute with Ayesha Siddiqui, who is from Hyderabad, like Ms Mirza.

Ms Siddiqui's mother, Farisa, said she was shocked. "I can't believe this girl," she said. "She has seen what happened to my daughter -- it was all over the news. Despite this she got involved with this man."

Ms Siddiqui has said that she met Mr Malik in Dubai in 2000. Reports that they had married started when her family hosted a reception for the Pakistan team.

In 2008 Mr Malik announced that they separated because their families could not agree on the marriage terms. Her father, Mohammad Ahmed Siddiqui, then announced that Mr Malik had married his daughter in 2002 over the telephone because she could not get a Pakistani visa.

Although the groom was in Pakistan and the bride in India, he said, the ceremony was conducted by an Islamic cleric before several witnesses and therefore complied with Sharia.

"Shoaib Malik is rejecting my daughter, Ayesha, as she has become fat," Mr Siddiqui said.

hnews@herald.ie

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