By: KASHIF ABBASI
RAWALPINDI: Footballer Sahar Zaman says it was her dream to wear the national colour.
“In the pursuit of my dream, I worked hard, stayed focused on my practice and finally achieved my dream.”
But the 18-year-old player is worried about the future of football in the country, saying authorities concerned were least interested in improving the game.
“We have best players of the world. Believe me, Pakistan is a country where you can find hundreds of talented women players but they need proper attention,” said Sahar, who made international debut at the age of 13.
For the first time she put on the Pakistani colour in 2009 in Bangladesh against archrival India.
“I enjoyed my debut against India but unfortunately the much advanced and experienced Indian side defeated us.”
Hailing from Gilgit-Baltistan, the Pakistan midfielder, who is associated with the Young Rising Stars (YRS) Female Football Club in Rawalpindi, said the interest of the government in improving the game could be gauged from the fact that even the country’s best club -YRS – did not have a ground.
The YRS, Pakistan Football Federation’s congress member, was established in 2007 and has so far got seven of its members selected for the national team.
Sahar said American national player Hope Amelia Solo was her ideal. After performing brilliantly in the national championship in 2008, YRS was invited to attend the Sports Envoy Programme 2009 in the US.
Being part of the exchange programme, the young midfielder got a chance to see her favourite player in action.
“I was excited when I saw my favorite Solo,” she added.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist, Hope Solo is American female national team’s goalkeeper. She has been goalkeeping since 2000.
Apart from Sahar, the club also produced six other national players. They were former skipper Sana Mahmood, goal keeper Syeda Mahpara, Asmara Kiani, Malika Noor, Roshnan Ali and Nadia Bhatti.
And for the upcoming international matches against an Islamic country, four more players – Faiza Mahmood, Zara Sohail, Bushra Jamali and Rozina – have been selected for the training camp which will be organised in Lahore next month.
Like Sahar, national players Nadia Bhatti and Asmara Kiani also complained of being ignored.
Asmara, who is also captain of the YRS, added: “Our national team managed to win against Maldives and Afghanistan. We have lots of potential but we need proper infrastructure and patronage to excel in the game.”
Nadia said women footballers were not provided with sufficient chances to play.
“After winning the national championship, which was held in December last year, we are still sitting idle and waiting for the next event. Even some of our players are gaining weight. Every year, there should be at least four domestic competitions,” she added.
YRS General Secretary Tasawar Ejaz said the club was established by a three-member team headed by President Ghiasuddin Baloch.
In reply to question, Ejaz said the YRS management had been focusing on schools and colleges to hunt talent.
“We have picked some best and talented players from schools and colleges to train them. But we need proper ground facility.” She said due to the lack of ground the YRS players had to go to the OPF College, H-8, for practice sessions.
YRS President, Mr Baloch said if the government was facing shortage of funds, there was an alternative.
“The district government should allow us to hold practice sessions at the Divisional Public School which has a football ground.”
In reply to a question, he said YRS was being run on self-finance basis as during the last six years the Pakistan Football Federation released only Rs50,000 to it that too for arranging uniforms for the players. He said the district government was, somehow, supporting the YRS.
All the players associated with YRS requested the government to prepare the sports calendars keeping the study schedule in mind.
They said sometimes due to examinations in schools and colleges, they had to miss important matches.
When contacted, District Sports Officer Mazhar Shah said his office had been extending assistance to the YRS.
“I know without the ground facility, this talented club could not survive. I’m going to take up this issue with the DCO.”