by Natasha Raheel
KARACHI: Pakistani girls, for the very first time and under the banner of pioneering women’s club Diya FC, will take part in the upcoming Norway Cup and Gothia Cup — two of world’s biggest youth football tournaments.
The Karachi-based club will be competing in the U13 and U14 age categories in both the events.
According to Diya FC founder and coach Sadia Sheikh, it is a major opportunity for female footballers to get some exposure and more importantly a chance to show the world that women’s football has a great future in Pakistan.
“I’ve been working with these girls from the very beginning,” Sheikh told The Express Tribune. “It’s a dream come true in many ways because I am finally taking them to these tournaments after decades of hard work.”
She continued: “This club’s story is about the hope of these girls. There are no lies in this. We don’t pretend to be something we are not.”
The teams are being sponsored by event organisers, who will cover the expenses for travel and accommodation of the players but not the training camp, arranging the cost of whom proved to be a major challenge for Sheikh.
“I’m not a politician, I’m not a millionaire,” said Sheikh, who is also a Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) official. “I don’t have many sponsors, but me and my assistant coach Rukhsar Rashid saved up Rs10,000 each month from our salaries and in the end got just enough for the camp. I don’t have my own children so these girls from my club are my daughters and I am married to football.”
Maheen Jawad, the youngest member of the team, who is from Lyari says playing football is her fathers’ dream that she wants to fulfill.
“My dad always wanted to be a footballer and play as a pro,” said Maheen. “He is very excited for me. I want to do my best at the Norway Cup and I hope one day I will get to play for Pakistan too.”
Twelve-year-old goalkeeper Fatima Faizan, meanwhile, sees this as an opportunity of a life-time for her and her teammates, whereas Nawal Rizwan, 13, feels it is the culmination of their hard work and a solid sign that they can have a future in football.
Norway Cup will start from July 27, whereas Gothia Cup will be played in the month of August in China.