From a village tomboy in the tribal area of Wana, South Waziristan, to becoming Pakistan’s top squash player, Maria Toorpakai Wazir has come a long way.
Maria stormed into Pakistan women’s squash in 2003 as a junior and has dominated since then. But now, on her road to international glory, her first stop is Malaysia where she will train for world ranking tournaments. After her endless struggle with the Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF) she has joined hands with the Malaysian Squash Federation, who have allowed her to practice in Kuala Lumpur with their women squad for the upcoming Commonwealth Games.
“I will be leaving for Malaysia after Eid, so there will be no Asian Games camp for me,” the 20-year-old Maria told The Express Tribune about her preparation for the event that starts on November 12. “It’s about time that I start playing the way I want to instead of wasting my time trying to explain to the federation that they need a separate women’s wing in the PSF and that they should have confidence in me.”
According to the former junior world number three, gender bias is the biggest hindrance in her progress as a squash player in Pakistan, evident from the fact that when she asked the PSF to send the women’s contingent to the Commonwealth Games which fell on deaf ears. She was told that women’s squash was not their priority.
“It is ironic. I broke away from my tribal background of Wana just to get caught with this gender bias in the federation. They like their male players more. How am I supposed to change that.”
Commited to her career
But this does not deter her from aiming for the top-30 in the coming year.
As a self-funded, Peshawar-based player, Maria has made history by becoming the first Pakistani woman to break into the World Squash Federation’s (WSF) top-100.
Since last year, she has leapt 13 places to 72nd in the world ranking when she finished as a runner-up at the Kuala Lumpur Malaysia 2010 in May where she entered as a wild card and played in the final against world number two Malaysia’s Sharon Wee. Soon after, she reached the semi-finals of the Sheikha Saadal Sabah Women’s international squash tournament in Kuwait, that took place in June.
However, since her highest world ranking was 66 in 2008, she hopes to break into the WSF’s top 50 women’s slot by participating in the Malaysian events this year once she reaches Kuala Lumpur.
“Since terrorism has finished sports in Pakistan and we are not hosting any international ranking tournaments anymore, players don’t have a choice.”
“If I have to play abroad, I want to get training from abroad also,” concluded Maria.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 8th, 2010.