Meet Sayeed Sultana

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India’s Women Table Tennis Champion

Many might take a little girl sitting on the players’ gallery and conversing with top-ranking players with an air of familiarity, to be the daughter of one of the players or the grand-daughter of the tournament’s boss. But when the umpire makes the announcement, and your talkative neighbor gives you a free Who is Who, you are baffled. The little girl was 14-year-old MISS SAYEED SULTANA, India’s No. 1 Woman Table Tennis Champion.

Feminine Charm

Smartly dressed in Islamic attire, Miss Sultana loved the game with all her heart. You would see a note of childish glee on her face, as that of a girl watching her father open a packet of sweets, when she prepares for the game. Wearing a dark colored Kameez, a dark colored Shalwar, a glittering necklace, a pair of diamond earrings, Miss Sultana would appear as a player who had only come for a ceremonial prize distribution to take away the prize. She prepared for the duel by throwing her flowing light-colored Dupatta on her back over her shoulder and tying it around the waist covering her body. That might be the way of the Women’s National Guard, but that is also the battle dress of Miss Sultana.

With an impeccable defense carried most effortlessly, a touch of feminine grace in the handling of the paddle, and a rhythmic movement that comes naturally to some women, Miss Sultana tired her opponent by her consistency, patience, coolness, and cunning placement of shots.

It was a Table Tennis Fete for those who witnessed the Madras Championship and the women’s final on August 23. The spectators had some very exciting moments. Playing against Mrs. Rajagopalan in the final, Miss Sultana gave a grand display, which convinced the spectators that one day she would become the world champion.


Sayeed Sultana, left side first row, and Altaf Ali, brother to Sultana, second row above Sultana

Miss Sultana was the youngest child in a family of seven. Only daughter of Mr. Mohamed Ahmed Ali of Hyderabad. She got all the encouragement from her parents and brothers when she first revealed the glimpses of a future champion in 1948, the year in which only she had started playing. She had, in particular, been tutored by her brother Muzaffar Ali, who chaperoned her as she traveled for her matches in India and abroad. In 1949, within one year of picking up the game, she surprised the world by snatching national championship in Hyderabad.

Sociable and a great conversationalist, Miss Sultana was born on September 14, 1936 and attended the Mahboobia Girls High School in Hyderabad. The extent to which she had raised the prestige of Hyderabad and India in the world of sports does not seem to have been realized. When the World Table Tennis Championship was held in India in 1952, as decided by the International Federation at Vienna, many saw the Table Tennis jewel of India.


Miss Sultana had travelled to Europe to participate in World Table Tennis Championships. Why didn’t she go on a short tour to Pakistan and make the game popular? That may have brought about a healthy sports rivalry between the two countries, as Pakistan did not participate in the World Championship in Vienna (Austria).

Miss Sultana migrated to Pakistan in 1956 with her family.

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