by Umaid Wasim
KARACHI: It was perhaps keeping in mind that most of the teams were playing in the National Women’s Football Championship for the first time that the Pakistan Football Federation Normalisation Committee made a separate developmental stage tournament at the end of the group stage.
The results on the opening day of the championship showed exactly why.
The back of the net rippled 52 times across four matches here at the KMC Stadium and the KPT Stadium. The number is even more astounding because one of the games was a goalless draw. Two players scored 10 goals each. It was total annihilation for the losers, all of them relative novices into the country’s elite women’s football tournament.
One of the new teams, though, did win — and that too by a scoreline of 19-0.
Powered by four top Nepalese players, Masha United had a debut to remember as they left Sialkot Women’s FC chasing their shadows at the KPT Stadium.
The club from a village near Faisalabad, bankrolled by Rai Intikhab Ali, only got a chance to play after one of the teams at the 19-team championship dropped out.
To form a competitive team they turned to Nepal and brought in four players from Nepalese champions Armed Police Force (APF), which included the league’s MVP Saru Limbu.
Saru showed exactly why she was named Nepal’s top woman footballer, scoring 10 times with her compatriots Anita KC and Gita Rana also among the scorers.
Anita got six with Gita getting one. Zara Iqbal and Samroz Samreena also got one apiece for Masha.
There was another 19-0 romp for Karachi United in the other Group ‘B’ match at the KMC Stadium.
Like Masha, United too had a 10-goal scorer against Karachi Women’s FC — Zulfia Nazir. Suha Hirani scored five while Nina Zehri bagged a brace and Naqia and Eshal Shah got one apiece.
On Tuesday’s showing, it looks Sialkot and Karachi would definitely be heading to the development stage tournament in which the bottom two sides from Group ‘A’ will be joined by the teams which finish from third to fifth in the other three groups.
Heavyweights Wapda also enjoyed a goal-fest as they kicked off their campaign in Group ‘A’ with a 14-0 hammering of Gilgit Women’s FC.
Sanober smashed four goals, Maria Khan got a hat-trick while Fatima Ansari and Syed’s Dua Gilani netted twice each. Sahar Zaman and Shanzay Nazir got a goal apiece.
The other group match was an exception on a day of lop-sided wins as Hazara Girls Football Academy and Hazara Quetta couldn’t manage a single goal between them.
Due to the Covid-19 situation, spectators weren’t allowed at the venues. The participating teams have been issued some protocols to ensure there isn’t a virus outbreak during the championship.
The championship has started barely a week after cricket’s Pakistan Super League was postponed due to a virus outbreak in its biosecure bubble.
But despite some 500 players and officials being involved, there hasn’t been any Covid testing. PFF Normalisation Committee technical director Dani Limones told Dawn on Monday that there were provisions for the tournament to be stopped temporarily in case of a positive Covid-19 case.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said on Tuesday that the implementation of preventive measures was a matter of the PFF NC.
“The organisation of domestic competitions is a matter for the AFC’s Member Associations, their respective stakeholders and the Local Government,” an AFC spokesperson told Dawn when asked if the PFF NC had taken guidelines from the AFC regarding Covid-19 protocols.
“We must recognise that Asia is a vast continent, and the impact and stages of the Covid-19 outbreak varies from country to country, and, therefore, our Member Associations are in the best possible position to decide on the implementation of preventive measures and to find solutions to fit the circumstances in their own country.”