Honing talent from far-flung Chitral [Dawn]

Honing talent from far-flung Chitral [Dawn]

by Kashif Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: For the young girls from Chitral who have left their hometowns for the first time, travelling to the federal capital has brought them double joy.

One, they have gotten the chance to see the country’s beautiful capital and second, they are receiving football training at the Pakistan Sports Complex – probably some of the few lucky students from the country’s far-flung areas to have found such an opportunity.

Among them is 13-year-old Sufiyana Wazir, who is one of the 40 under-16 football players from Chitral currently in Islamabad to receive training from Spanish coach Jose Alonso and Waleed Javed.

Hailing from a remote village in Chitral district, the young girl was overwhelmed to be in the capital for the first time.

The city after all, with its high-rise buildings and streets bustling with life, is in stark contrast to the quietness of her hometown.

The girls’ arrival was made possible by the Chitral Women’s Sports Club established by internationally-acclaimed Pakistani football player Karishma Ali.

“In our area, girls have no sports facility; we do not even have proper roads, therefore, getting a chance to train here is amazing,” Sufiyana said. She wants to represent Pakistan internationally.

Isniha Gul, 14, is also visiting Islamabad for the first time.

Talking to Dawn, Gul said: “Girls are more talented and intelligent than boys…every year, girls outclass boys in matric exams and if provided better opportunities, they can also do wonders in sports.”

Talking about the training, she said: “We are learning amazing football skills, and upon returning to my native town, I will impart training to girls of my village.”

Other trainees, including Aniza Ayaz, Shahzadi Taj and Himra Bano, were excited to be coached in the capital.

The group has been brought to Islamabad by Karishma Ali, 22, the first woman from Chitral to have represented Pakistan – nationally and internationally.

She had participated in the Jubilee Games held in Dubai and was part of the women’s team that participated in the Australian Football League in 2017.

“I don’t believe in solo success; I want to help other girls as well so that we can progress together,” Karishma told Dawn.

The ongoing training camp will be very helpful for all players as the best coaches are helping them to hone their skills, she said.

“Pakistan is blessed with talent. Imagine, in Chitral we have dozens of female football players, so let me say that in all areas of the country there is no dearth of talent, provided players are given the chance to shine,” she said, adding that raw talent, due to less learning opportunities, is being wasted in the country.

When asked whether she had represented Pakistan’s national football team, she said, “For the last five years, national women’s football team is inactive, so I could not get a chance, but I have represented Pakistan in the Australian league and Doha Games on my own.”

Football in Pakistan has been suffering for the last five years due to differences between several groups vying to take ownership of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF). A normalisation committee formed by FIFA is supposed to conduct elections of PFF by June 30 this year.

Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2021