Girls' football: A trend becoming a revolution

The sport came to the area almost 3 years ago in schools and colleges as part of their extra-curricular activities.

Sarah Khan August 28, 2011
Girls' football: A trend becoming a revolution

In a land where girls as young as 12 start taking the hijab, and where their presence in the public sphere is severely restricted, a presumably masculine sport is fast gaining popularity with the females.

Although it’s too early to say if it’s the start of a revolution in the Pakhtun culture, it is safe to highlight the emergence of certain trends that defy the norms and values of a seemingly well-knit society.

Girls’ football only came to the area two to three years ago when schools and colleges introduced it as part of their extra-curricular activities.

There are a few football clubs for girls in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) who have an interest in the sport as well as a regional team that participates in the national championships.

Culture versus the sport

A conversation with K-P coach Gohar Zaman, who also coaches Frontier FC and Peshawar FC, depicted a clearer picture of how the Pakhtun culture clashes with the sport.

Girls’ football – and I call it girls’ and not women’s because most of them are aged 12 to 20 – is organised at school or college level and clubs are formed from those teams. The best players are then picked for the provincial team. Although many families resist the participation of girls, they agree when the competitions are organised in schools and colleges. But the obstacle comes up again during national tournaments which requires travel to another city and involves overnight stay.

However, Zaman remains adamant on breaking away with the conservative culture. Promoting football among girls is not easy but even death threats have failed to stop him. He sits down with reluctant parents, making them realise that their ‘honour’ will not be sacrificed if their daughters play football.

“I sit down and tell them that ‘it’s a healthy sport, if your daughters don’t do something constructive, they’ll end up wasting their time in other unproductive activities’.”

Lack of funds, infrastructure and free time has also forced Zaman to keep training sessions to a minimum, taking place before major tournaments instead of on a regular basis. Training takes place during the free periods on a school day as girls find it hard to travel to training grounds otherwise.

Where does it all lead to?

A lot of effort  goes into the making of a footballer, especially if its a female from the far-off areas of Pakistan where there are added obstacles. However, when asked if these girls can make a career out of pursuing football, Zaman expressed his pessimism.  “I’ve come across immense talent but most get married and stop with the sport. It’s the mindset of the society which doesn’t allow a girl to play football after she’s married as she is supposed to look after the private sphere.”

The writer is a sub-editor at The Express Tribune

Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2011.


Sumit Singh | 12 years ago | Reply

Wearing hijab is not a bad thing and neither it has anything to do with conservative society and woman empowerment as pointed out by article.

3-1 | 12 years ago | Reply

nicely written :) but i think you shouldve ended on a postivie line with the article's heading.

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