KARACHI: And finally the eight-year wait is now going to come to an end as Pakistan women football team is set to return to international circuit. Maria Khan-led Pakistan lock horns with arch-rivals India in their Group A opener of the 2022 SAFF Women’s Championship at the Dasharath Stadium in Kathmandu on Wednesday (today).
Pakistan last played in the 2014 SAFF Championship which Pakistan hosted in Islamabad.
Due to various issues and international sanctions, Pakistan football suffered a lot.
FIFA’s recent decision to lift the ban on Pakistan provided a chance to the FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee to send the women’s team for the tournament. But they will face outfits which have been playing football in international circuit without any break.
“Everyone is excited to be back in action,” Pakistan captain Maria Khan said.
“The preparations have been going well and we are ready for tomorrow’s game,” said Maria, granddaughter of former squash guru Hashim Khan.
Pakistan head coach Adeel Rizki also hoped that his brigade will click.
“Pakistan team is playing after eight years in international circuit and we have trained well,” Adeel said.
“We had not got ample time for preparations but the time we got we tried to work hard whatever we could do. Hopefully the team will perform well,” Adeel said.
Maldives and Bangladesh are the other teams in Pakistan’s group. India is a strong side, having won all the previous five editions of the seven-nation event.
India’s captain Ashalata Devi termed her side’s game against Pakistan a crucial one. “Our match against Pakistan will be crucial. We want to put in our best. It will be a high-intensity game, for sure. They have a new team but we fear none,” Devi said.
“It’s important to be focussed and we are working very hard to do the right things in every possible way,” she said.
Hosts Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka form Group B. The top two teams from each group will qualify for the semi-finals which will be held on September 16. The final will be held on September 19.
Squad: Alina Ispahani, Anmol Hira, Atiqa Nasir, Ghazala Amir, Hajra Khan, Khadija Kazmi, Maliha Nasir, Malika-e-Noor (vice captain), Maria Khan (captain), Marvi Baig, Mishal Bhatti, Nadia Khan, Nisha Ashraf, Nizalia Siddiqui, Rameen Fareed, Roshnan Ali, Sahar Zaman, Sara Khan, Shani Shahida, Shanzay Nazir, Suha Hirani, Syeda Mahpara and Zulfia Nazir.