Saff Championship preparation: Women’s team gears up for Bahrain friendly [Express Tribune]

Saff Championship preparation: Women’s team gears up for Bahrain friendly [Express Tribune]

Natasha Raheel – Express Tribune
KARACHI: The Pakistan women’s football team is set to leave for Bahrain on Sunday in their first ever friendly tour, where they will play at least three matches with the hosts.

The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) decided to send the national side to Bahrain to gain international exposure before the South Asian Football Federation (Saff) Women’s Championship in November.

The Saff Championship will take place in Lahore, where top teams of the region including India and Nepal are expected to give a hard time to Pakistan. Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka make up the remaining participants.

“We’re all quite excited as it will be the first friendly tour for the women’s team,” national player Hajrah Khan told The Express Tribune. “We’re expecting to improve on the tour and gain useful exposure.

“Having an international tour is essential, and we’re really happy that it’s finally happening.”

Hajra lauded the PFF’s growing interest in women’s football, emphasising the need to improve international rankings through tours.

“We’ve played international tournaments before, but this is the first time we are having an exclusive tour,” she said. “It’s important because we need to improve our Fifa rankings. We were 212 in the world, but after we played in the 2012 Saff Championship, we moved up to the 106th spot.

“However, we didn’t participate in more matches after that and today our ranking is 112. So yes, we can only improve our ranking through friendly tours.”

She added that the training camp for the mega event began a month ago with 50 players in Islamabad and after a month-long training, 26 girls are still in the camp.

The Balochistan United WFC captain predicted that playing against Bahrain will be tough.

“We’ve never played against any Arab country before, so it’s going to be interesting.”

Meanwhile, PFF Secretary Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi confirmed that the team is expected to play three or four matches against Bahrain as a part of their Saff Championship’s preparation.

The official added that the PFF wants to invest in women’s football despite financial constraints.

“We’re going to spend Rs3 million on this tour,” said Lodhi.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2014.