You

A RESILIENT PLAYER

You
By Kaukab Jahan
Tue, 10, 22

This week You! is in conversation with Khadija Kazmi of the Pakistan women’s national football team…

A RESILIENT PLAYER

football

Pakistan Women’s National football team recently participated in South Asian Football Federation Cup Tournament held in Nepal and beat Maldives with seven goals in one of the matches. From these seven goals, one was from Khadija Kazmi, the talented player of our national women football team.

Khadija is a FIFA Masters graduate with several accolades to her name. She led ARMY women’s team to a glorious Nationals victory for two years in a row (2018 and 2019). She was also awarded the best player of the tournament award in 2018.

She captained Karachi United women’s team for many years. The young football pioneer has won several seasons of prestigious competitions such as the annual State Bank Football Championship, National Bank football tournament, LUMS futsal tournament, and many more.

Khadija, who plays midfielder in the current squad, talks in-depth about her football career, participating in an international tournament after a long gap of eight years and also on the criticism she and her teammates received at home on their uniforms. This week You! is in conversation with Khadija Kazmi of the Pakistani women’s football team…

A RESILIENT PLAYER

You! How did you start taking interest in the game and become a professional footballer?

Khadija Kazmi: Being part of Pakistani youth, my first interest was cricket. I used to play cricket in my school with boys. But as football became popular, I started leaning towards it. There used to be only three girls including me who would play. From there, the passion built and we made our school team which participated in different competitions. During that time, we came to know that there were some football clubs in Pakistan at national level as well.

You! After eight years, Pakistani women’s football team participated in an international competition and won a match. How do you feel about it?

KK: It is hard to describe in words. We did not believe about our participation until we reached Nepal because the last eight years remained so uncertain in which we were banned, unbanned, set up camps, and ended up with no result. Then this year, we finally gathered a team and made it possible to participate in an international competition and won a match too. But this is just the first step. I hope it remains consistent and our team participates in more international competitions and keeps moving forward to compensate for this long gap of eight years.

You! How difficult was it to reach the national level?

KK: From the start, I observed too many problems in federation and clubs. The focus was more on internal politics and nepotism than training. Moreover, there were very few facilities available for women footballers in Pakistan which became a hindrance for them to get fair opportunities. All these things made me realise that I had to do something for the betterment of football in Pakistan. It was very difficult in the beginning, but as football had become my life, I kept trying.

A RESILIENT PLAYER

You! Was there any inspiration?

KK: Yes. When one of my close mates in our football team died in the 2010 Air Blue crash. My friends and I decided that whatever happens we were going to promote football in her memory.

You! As a professional footballer, what is your routine to keep yourself fit?

KK: Oh. It is tough for Pakistani footballers as you have to stay fit but unfortunately, facilities are not easily available here. My daily routine starts very early. I wake up at seven in the morning and make sure to have a good breakfast. Then I go to work; a school, where I am a fitness trainer. I take my own lunch to work. After coming back, I freshen up and do my own workout, which also includes lots of yoga. Because of Covid-19, I got into the habit of working out at home instead of going to the gym for the last two years. In the evening, I either play football on my own or go for a run. I then wind down, have dinner and go to bed.

You! How do you see the recent announcement by Pakistan Football Federation to equalise the fees of male and female footballers?

KK: It’s great and need of the moment. If we look around the world, the US women soccer team fought a very long case in court for their equal pay. It is heartening that we are at least learning something from them. I believe if you are a football player, then regardless of the gender, you should be receiving the same privileges.

You! When the nation was celebrating your success, a section of society criticised negatively on the uniforms. How did that feel?

KK: It is very sad to see that the world is moving forward and we are still stuck pointing fingers at each other. When your values are questioned on what you wear even while playing a sport, which requires a particular dress code as uniform, it becomes a really big problem. We are judged by how we look instead of our game. To be honest, it is quite discouraging.

I find it a lot sadder for younger girls who have just come into the field. We need to have more girls coming into the game but by setting these hurdles; things would become harder for them. If they are burdened with the hesitation of what others say, how can they concentrate on their game? I wish as a society we open up our minds.

A RESILIENT PLAYER

You! In our society women are usually criticised a lot whether it is their dress, mannerism or styling. And if one is a public figure she is trolled unnecessarily on social media these days. How do you tackle it?

KK: When I decided to opt football as a profession I had convinced my family that it was all right for a girl to play sport. I think it is just about knowing your values and where you belong. People will always criticise. The best solution is to listen to them and try to have a conversation as it might be some kind of misconception but if it doesn’t work, then focus and direct your energy on yourself and your game. In this regard, my own teammates are the biggest support system as all of us go through the same thing.

You! How do you see the future of women football in Pakistan?

KK: I believe we have a lot of talent. The only thing we need is to work consistently. We halted our activities for eight years and worked only for a month to rebuild our team to participate in SAFF (South Asian Football Federation) games, and got good results. The current team is the one who did not go through grass root levels of training and development but did well on ground. So imagine if we establish women’s football on a serious note and give opportunities to young footballers, I am sure we have all the abilities to go further.