KARACHI: Neha Zia, the former Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) women’s wing administrator and Junaid Jamshed’s wife, was one of the 48 passengers who died in last week's plane crash of PIA's flight PK661, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Her sports administration background was largely overlooked in the aftermath of the December 7 plane crash as she had changed her name following her marriage with singer-turned-evangelist Junaid.
Between 2010 and 2012, Neha played an active role in developing women's football in Pakistan and is remembered as a consummate professional by her PFF colleagues. She also earned her Licence D coaching course while serving the federation.
“Neha was a crucial part of our team during her time here. She was a great asset for us — a thoroughly professional and educated administrator. I still remember we tried to stop her from quitting the job," recalled PFF secretary Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi.
“Her responsibilities included assisting in organising women’s tournaments and also keeping check of the funds that are allotted to the PFF for women's football each year. We were shocked to find out that she was among the victims.”
Lodhi continued, "It is hard to believe that she is not among us anymore as she was barely 30 years old. We encourage our officials to learn more about football and she did a coaching course even though she wasn’t a footballer herself.”
Former PFF director development and tournaments Pervaiz Saeed Mir also concurred and recalled that Neha was part of the PFF administration when Pakistan Women made their debut at the South Asian Football Federation (Saff) championship.
“She was the one who took care of the team’s arrangements. It was a huge step for us as our team was going abroad for the first time, and Neha did a great job in making sure that the players and coaches were well-organised and confident,” remembers Mir.
Meanwhile, Sadia Sheikh — who recently became the first Asian Football Confederation (AFC) certified women's match commissioner from Pakistan — paid tribute to the professionalism with which Neha managed the women’s wing.
“There is a dearth of educated people in most of the federations in Pakistan," said Sadia. "She also played a key role in organising the national championship before quitting. We really needed people like her."
Qibtia Jamshaid, Neha's successor at the PFF, also pointed out that Neha helped her learn about football management.
“I remember her ability to learn about football in such short time," said Qibtia. "Her internal drive to improve footballers' condition was pretty evident."
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