Saff Women’s Championship: ‘Pakistan focused on giving their best’ [Express Tribune]

Saff Women’s Championship: ‘Pakistan focused on giving their best’ [Express Tribune]

KARACHI: “We are going in to give our best, our 100%. That is the mindset, which is of winning, but we can’t expect anything,” Pakistan women’s team manager Qibtia Jamshaid shared from Nepal, as the team will play their second match of the South Asian Football Federation Women’s Championship against Bangladesh on Saturday.

Pakistan played the defending champions and the only champions of Saff, India, on Wednesday in Group A.

The national women’s team is playing their first international tournament in eight years. The women were not able to play any international event due to the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) crisis that saw two bans since 2015 by FIFA because of the third-party interference.

Qibtia has been a part of the Pakistan football community for more than a decade, while she has served as the PFF official. This is also her first stint as the team manager.

But she said that it is the players who she feels for the most.

“I can’t put it into words how I feel now that the women’s team is back in action,” Qibtia told The Express Tribune. “I have seen so much. It is unexplainable how I feel for the girls, and representing the country is so big that I do not have words for it. I have seen these girls for one and a half month now.

“I see the players as my children. That is what my relationship is with them. I have seen their progress, their injuries, their recoveries, and we have told them that we are already proud of them. We just want them to give their 100% and winning is not a condition.”

Looking at the emotion before going against India was massive too.

“We have been with the players throughout. We told them that we are happy with them, we do not want them to win, we want them to give their all, show what they have learned in the camp and from the coaches. We are proud of them regardless. India have been performing very well and they have been playing the tournaments and winning for years now, but we need to do the best we can,” said Qibtia.

She shed some light on having an open-door policy with the players. In high-pressure situations like being at an international event and for most of the players to be making their debuts as well, it is necessary that they do not feel alone away from home.

“We make sure that they can always talk to us, whether it is an on-field issue or a personal issue because we don’t want them to feel alone. Even though they are away from their families we want to make sure that they are comfortable, whether they are training, doing yoga or at the gym. So that is one of the ways to keep the pressure in control and keep them mentally focused,” said Qibtia.

She added that during the championship one can see India being ahead of the pack as they have developed women’s game over the years.

“When I look at the region, I see that the girls from all the countries have same built, height and there are lots of similarities, but then many of these teams have been preparing for a lot longer than Pakistan have gotten the opportunity to.

“We had a month while other teams have been training for more than a year and they are active. I feel with more time we can defeat India too in the future,” she said, adding Pakistan can perform well against Maldives.

She added that she has received messages from across the country by different coaches and clubs saying that the team was better than what they expected. Meanwhile, she said that other nations in Nepal were warm to Pakistan and their performance against India as well.

“Other countries have been very supportive knowing that our girls have not played in eight years,” she said.

Her message is that it is time to support women’s football and it does make a difference.

“I just want to say to everyone that please support women’s football. We have girls who have talent, who have the skills and they are unbelievably good. They just need to hone their talents further, they need encouragement and they need support that yes our girls can do this and win,” said Qibtia.

Published in The Express Tribune, 10 September 2022