Women’s football in dire need of attention [Express Tribune]

Women’s football in dire need of attention [Express Tribune]

by Natasha Raheel

KARACHI: Pakistan women’s football has oodles of potential, which if exploited, can be the turning point for the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF). However, it has not received the attention it deserves by the PFF.

Regrettably though, PFF has treated women’s football as a formality; a tick box activity to assure Asian Football Confederation and FIFA that it is being carried out. However, women’s football clubs are merely a tool for PFF to advance its own objectives.

PFF’s lack of interest in women’s football was apparent in the recent AFC U16 Championship qualifiers’ dismal results. Pakistan women’s team lost 8-0 to hosts Mongolia.

Moreover, while the U15 squad made their international debut last month at the South Asian Football Federation (Saff) U15 Championship, they conceded 18 goals and were able to score none.

Pakistan never participated in the AFC U16 Championship in 2016 because PFF withdrew from the event due to conflict within the organisation.

Under the tenure of Faisal Salah Hayat, which began in 2003, Pakistan has only played at the international level in 2010 for the first time and then in 2014.

The PFF has made a mockery of the women’s football. Nepotism is rife within the organization. An example is the recent instatement of Rizwan Ali as the vice-president of Punjab Football Association (PFA) on arbitrary basis, who is simultaneously the president of Model Town FC.

Further, a letter issued by the PFF dated September 12 announced that ’12-16’ teams will take part in the national women’s championship, including provincial, regional and departmental teams.

PFF official Sajjad Mahmood said three teams will be on standby, which include Karachi United, Karachi Kickers and Royal Eagles FC, in case any team fails to register by October 1.

“We’ll try to have these three teams in the competition too,” Mahmood told The Express Tribune. “But we have kept the line-up according to the teams’ participation in the previous editions.”

However, the letter did not specify what criteria will be utilised to select teams for participation, since no qualifying rounds have been held. It seems there is no system in place.

Having a questionable national championship will also impact the selection of players for the upcoming South Asian Football Women Championship, scheduled to take place in December.

The past three years have been the darkest for Pakistan football. Allies of Hayat continued to gain favour — Sardar Naveed Haider, an associate of Hayat was unfairly elected as the president of PFA — and following corruption charges and rising internal politics the PFF broke into two factions.

While fighting for personal benefits, the officials shut down the avenues for players, all football activity died.

Conditions remain murky in PFA in 2018 as the vice president’s own club somehow won the inaugural national U16 and U19 Championship for girls. The PFF is due to have fresh elections. However, the national women’s championship winning team will be given the right to vote. Ali, an ally of Hayat will hence have the right to vote.

A lot depends on the results and integrity of the upcoming national championships.

Meanwhile, Diya FC founder and pioneer of the women football Sadia Shaikh, has stressed on the need for a female national coach.

“We need a female coach from abroad,” said Shaikh. “There are no two ways about it. The female coaches that are working actively are never the part of the national squad, but the ones who aren’t make it. The most important factor to uplift the women’s football of the country at international events will be to have foreign coaches, females who can understand women’s football. It is not the same as men’s. We need them at age-group levels and national women’s team too.”

If these issues are addressed, there is hope women’s football will see better days.

Published in The Express Tribune, 16 September 2018