KARACHI: Almira Rafeeque will be looking to become the first Pakistan female footballer to make her debut in the English Premier League when she takes part in the trials for Tottenham Hotspurs on Tuesday.
The 20-year-old old UK-based athlete represented Pakistan for the first time at the South Asian Football Women’s Championship last year, and has won the national women’s championship twice; first with Young Rising Stars in 2013 and then with Balochistan United FC the following year.
Almira, who is still surprised at the turn in her footballing career, is thankful to Shehneela Ahmed — the first Asian women to become an FA-approved agent — for this opportunity and the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF).
“I’m still surprised this opportunity has come my way,” Almira told The Express Tribune. “It’s been a life-long dream of mine to become a professional footballer and I’m grateful to the PFF for putting faith in me after I represented the national team, and for getting me in touch with Shehneela.”
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The midfielder, who was born in the UK, said she had returned to her home country in 2008 and started playing in Islamabad with Young Rising Stars FC the same year. She later returned to the UK for higher education but once again made her return to the footballing circuit with the same club back home in 2013.
“For now I’m in Luton Town and I’ve been playing with Luton Town FC for the past two weeks,” said Almira, who returned to the UK after the SAFF Championship.
Meanwhile, Shahneela said she believes the youngster can be a role model for many Pakistani girls back home and in other parts of the world, while adding that she was hopeful of Almira’s tryouts with Spurs.
“I’ll be working with Almira and other female footballers as they need proper guidance. I’ll do what I can to help them,” said Shehneela.
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On the other hand, PFF official Fahad Khan said that Almira’s tryouts are just the beginning for women’s football in the country. “England is a good base to pursue a professional footballing career, and we just want our players to have this opportunity to progress,” said Fahad.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2015.
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