by Natasha Raheel
KARACHI: Pakistan women’s national team marked their return to international football after eight long years as they opened their campaign at the South Asian Football Federation (Saff) Championship 2022 with 3-0 defeat against the defending and only champions of the region India at the Dashrath Stadium in Kathmandu, Nepal on Wednesday afternoon.
Pakistan team saw many changes with key striker Hajra Khan, who was the captain in team’s last international outing back in 2014, playing as a defender, and fresh players coming into the side in the form of Suha Hirani, Nadia Khan and Mishal Amin.
Pakistan are placed in Group A of the seven-nation tournament.
Pakistan conceded first goal of the match in the 21st minute, which was an own goal by Pakistan captain Maria Jamila Khan, who was also making her international debut.
The second goal came just two minutes later from India’s Grace Dangmei while substitute Soumya Guguloth scored the third goal for India in the last minute of the match which was the fourth minute of extra-time.
Goal-keeper Syeda Mahpara Shahid made some good saves and played with great confidence; she was also the Pakistani goalkeeper in 2014.
This was the second time Pakistan played against India in the Saff Women’s Championship, the last and the only time was in 2010 when Women in Green lost 8-0 on their international debut.
“I feel immensely proud of these girls’ amazing football and amazing teamwork,” Sadia Sheikh told The Express Tribune, in excitement and pride back home. She is the founder of Pakistan’s first women’s football club and was an official of Pakistan Football Federation at the international debut of the country.
“We can do better with more training. Long live daughters of the soil!” she exclaimed.
Pakistan will now play Bangladesh on September 10 and then Maldives on September 13.
The top two teams from each of the two groups will qualify for the semi-finals.
Group B has hosts Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan.