These young women get a real ‘kick’ out of levelling the playing field

Published: June 16, 2013
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The KGFC’s football league for women was organised at the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation ground. PHOTO COURTESY UZAIR QADRI

The KGFC’s football league for women was organised at the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation ground. PHOTO COURTESY UZAIR QADRI

KARACHI: When it comes to fancy footwork on the football field, some of Karachi’s women are no less skilled than the men.

When 20-year-old Maheen Aqeel, a striker for the Karachi Gladiators Football Club (KGFC), scored goals in a football tournament held a couple of months ago, each kick was a strike at long-standing stereotypes about which gender belongs out on the field.

For her, the game is not a means to get physically fit but something she’s really hooked on to – and you can really tell by the gold medals and trophies she’s won as a team captain. “I hope to continue playing sports in the future and improve my game, work harder than I ever have before and achieve what I haven’t done as yet,” she said. In a society where women are hardly provided with much opportunity to showcase their skills on the field, the KGFC’s football league for women organised at the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) ground was a chance to step into the limelight.

Uzair Qadri, KGFC’s founder and captain, said, “After I gained enough experience myself, my ambition became to encourage women in this sport.” Qadri, who had been a part of the Pakistani team in the 36th Asian Under-18 Football Championship, went on to form his own club to train youngsters. He eventually decided to make a separate team for women and coach them at the KMC ground as well.

“When the idea for the women’s league was floated around, everybody liked it. But when it came to the finance, everyone backed off,” said Qadri. “The Pakistan Football Federation showed its interest only by asking the players I had groomed to join the national side but abandoned them when it came to training.” The football federation’s spokesperson was not available to comment.

It was only when the KGFC arranged for the funds for the league itself that the ball literally got rolling for women footballers. “We couldn’t take any money from teams as the league’s sole purpose was to encourage them. Finding sponsors proved to be quite a tough task in the end.”

But this wasn’t the only snag the league hit along the way – an even bigger hurdle to be crossed was the players’ families, who were jittery about the whole idea. But the women eventually won over their anxious parents.

“Juggling studies, sports and social life can be a real challenge. Setting priorities was a major issue,” said Maheen. “I had to balance my studies with football. I sacrificed my spare time for the sake of studies and sports. I didn’t hang out with friends and didn’t go to some family reunions.” Mashal Hussain, the captain and head coach of Karachi United Football Club’s women squad, recalled the time when she was a fitness assistant for the men’s football team at her university.

“I helped injured players recover through various drills and exercises. In doing so, I developed a liking for the game and began watching various European leagues, learning the game and playing it,” she said. “This grew into a passion and I have been coaching and playing the sport since then.”

Mashal is determined to continue pursuing this passion. “As long as I’m able to, I’ll continue to play. Should the day come when I can’t [play football], I’ll continue to coach so that girls like me can pursue their interest.”

Qadri harbours hopes that his efforts have been enough and more . “These young women are very passionate about football and very committed…more than men,” said Qadri.

KGFC is planning another tournament for women at the end of this month.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 17th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Billoo Bhaya
    Jun 17, 2013 - 12:16AM

    I did not know about women’s football in KHI. Good news. Where can we get their schedule to go and watch them play??

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  • olique
    Jun 17, 2013 - 12:36AM

    The playing field is not level between social classes. Women from elite backgrounds have more opportunities then men and women from lower classes. I would be happy if girl students of govt schools/colleges are given more opportunities. Its only when ordinary people play sports at higher level will we be able to perform in event like the Olympics

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  • AlChemist
    Jun 17, 2013 - 1:38AM

    That is a great news. Women must not be treated either as a trophy or a pet locked up in a cage.

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  • Saman
    Jun 17, 2013 - 11:07AM

    Brilliant!

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  • AHMAD
    Jun 17, 2013 - 12:18PM

    That is a very great news. Soon expecting Maheen at Stanford bridge playing for Chelsea ^_^

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  • Uzair Qadri
    Jun 17, 2013 - 2:55PM

    I can assure you. . .there was no class difference on the playing field.
    Girls coming from different backgrounds, only made an apparent difference through their game. On the field, you couldn’t tell who’s from where.

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  • Syed
    Jun 20, 2013 - 4:50PM

    Best way to deal with class system is not to feel it and instead strive to do the right thing. People (men and women) from middle class areas (I am from there) should do and organize healthy activities themselves, it will be difficult but not impossible. It is about making choices and priorities. In my opinion it is more important for girls to play and enjoy sport as they soon face lot of physical and emotional challanges of child bearing, body changes etc. It is parents responsibility to encourage and do activities with them.

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