‘More contests like SAFF could help revive sports in Pakistan’ [DAWN]

‘More contests like SAFF could help revive sports in Pakistan’ [DAWN]

Kashif Abbasi – DAWN

ISLAMABAD: Under­lin­ing that the SAFF Wom­en’s Championship was a highly useful learning experience for Pakistan team, national goalkeeper Syeda Mahpara on Friday said staging significant events like this could help revive international sports in the country.

“It’s a great achievement for us to have successfully organised the SAFF Women’s Championship. I hope this mega event will create more opportunities for Pakistan to stage more such international events,” Mahpara said while talking to Dawn.

Mahpara, 21, who received huge appreciation from all visiting teams for displaying her brilliant goalkeeping skills in the SAFF championship, reckoned the event came as a blessing for the Pakistan women’s team, who were new to the footballing world.

Speaking on the sidelines of the India-Nepal final here at the Jinnah Stadium, the Rawalpindi-based goalkee­per said this tournament would boost the confidence of Pakistan’s women footballers.

“Though we could not qualify for the semi-finals, we are not disappointed either. Rather I believe it was a great learning experience for us to play against better-trained international teams, and that too on home soil, which is indeed a positive development,” she said, while underlining that players of her team were inexperienced compared to the other competing outfits.

“We possess very little experience of playing international matches but I think [after gaining some valuable exposure in the SAFF championship], we will be able to produce improved performance in the future,” she said.

Mahpara, who exhibited tremendous goalkeeping particularly in the game against Nepal stopping at least six goals including a plenty-kick, added that this championship could become a starting point for Pakistani football lovers who would witness more events like this taking place in the country.

Almost all prominent international sports teams have avoided touring Pakistan over security concerns ever since that horrific terror attack on Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in March 2009.

However, this year Pakis­tan managed to host two noteworthy international events — Chief of Air Staff Squash Championship and now the SAFF Women’s Championship, signalling more such competitions would come to the terror-hit country provided security situation improves.

Talking about Pakistan’s overall performance in the SAFF event, Mahpara, who represents Balochistan United on domestic circuit, reckoned her team played brilliantly against Nepal and Bhutan, “but our performance was not satisfactory against Sri Lanka”.

“We could beat Sri Lanka but we missed several goal-scoring chances; I also committed some mistakes [in that game],” she acknowledged.

The Pakistan goalkeeper, who started club football in 2007 at Young Rising Club Rawalpindi, appealed the Pakistan Football Federation to provide them maximum chances of international and friendly matches to the women’s team so that they could start producing impressive results in mega events such as the SAFF championship.

Published in Dawn, November 22th, 2014