KARACHI: Women can be as good as men when it comes to sports and Pakistan women’s football captain Hajra Khan gave everyone a prime example when she played a key role in helping her team Kaleemullah Seven win the match against Essa Seven 2-0 at the Karachi United Football Stadium on Sunday night.
The exhibition match was organised by the Leisure Leagues Pakistan featuring the national men’s team players in both teams, while Hajra and Sohaila Zarrain were the lone female players in each side.
Affiliated with Leisure Leagues UK, the purpose of Leisure Leagues Pakistan is to promote league football on grassroots level and the national players participated in the event as ambassadors.
According to Hajra, the idea of playing with boys was proposed by her as this would not only help in promoting women’s football in Pakistan but also change the perception that women can't go shoulder to shoulder with men on any field.
“It was a great experience,” Hajra told The Express Tribune. “Leisure Leagues are doing a really good job at the grassroots level. I suggested them that I should also be in the team and then they asked our national player Sohaila to play for Essa’s side.”
She continued: “They were all up for it; they let me play and the great thing was that I ended up scoring the second goal after Saadullah had scored the first one.
Hajra said she hopes girls come out to play football after watching her play alongside men.
“I hope that my appearance in the match helps the girls to come out and play,” she said. “Usually parents don’t allow them to play football because they haven’t seen other girls on the field. I’m happy that I contributed to the score and showed the girls that we can do whatever we want and also excel in it. We shouldn’t be scared even if we are playing with the boys.”
Hajra recalled that there have been instances where when she played with boys or junior players they would expect her not to be good, and mostly they would not pass her the ball either, and in some cases, if she did score, the boys would usually stop the match because they would not want to lose against the girls.
But the exhibition match was different and the 23-year-old said that the national men’s team players trusted her abilities and supported her.
“They didn’t doubt me,” said Hajra. “We played as a unit and I scored on a pass. There was no difference between me and the other players. They really understood this and when we won, we celebrated it as a team.”
Hajra added that although there have not been any national or international events for women’s football in Pakistan, new talent is emerging fast and Leisure Leagues can be the platform to provide them with an opportunity.
“I know there isn’t much happening in terms of national football but new talent is emerging. I see girls coming up in football, taking it as a sport and that is important. I really liked the support from Leisure Leagues too, when I said I wanted to play; their motive is to promote football and not just the league,” said Hajra.