Natasha Raheel – Express Tribune
KARACHI: Five girls from Manghopir, whose lives revolve around going to the madrassa, have been given an opportunity to make their debut at the Pakistan Football Federation U16 Championship next week for Diya FC in Rawalpindi. The event will include five other teams.
The club will be fielding teenagers coming from impoverished localities and conservative backgrounds to prove that wearing head-scarves cannot stifle football talent.
Diya FC co-founder and coach Sadia Shaikh said that finding talent among girls who have only gone outside their homes for religious lessons was difficult but rewarding.
“Their journey from madrasas to a football stadium has been amazing,” Sadia told The Express Tribune. “They are physically tough and determined, but also have strong religious beliefs.
“They play with head-scarves, tights and long socks. We worked with them for four months, convincing their parents that playing football is not against religion. We gave references of the Iranian women’s football team. We got separate kits for these girls so that they can play the sport without feeling uncomfortable.”
Sadia further said that the spirit of her new players from Manghopir and New Karachi was infectious.
“They used to play bare-foot, and none of them had any idea of what their shoe size was. They would come up with innocent questions and ask me if they could play without shoes, so it was a bit of a challenge for them to get used to their kits.
“However, in our two practice matches with the boys, they were very competitive.”
Meanwhile, the coach added that Diya FC had to work with Nadra officials to get relevant documents for the players so that they may compete in the championship.
Sadia will be taking the 18-member squad to Rawalpindi on Saturday with hopes that the new talent would help improve the standard of women’s football in Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2014.