Women’s football gains momentum

August 6, 2023

Pakistan played a record number of international matches this year, but the performance was affected by mediocre coaching and selection

Women’s football gains momentum

Besides providing exposure to the men's team Pakistan's football authorities have been making efforts to give ample exposure to the national women football team.

During the last one year or so the women's team, under the captaincy of Maria Khan, have played ten international matches which is a major effort from the authorities. Never before was such an exposure given to the women's team in a calendar year

Following years of inactivity, the national women team, eventually, returned to the international circuit in the SAFF Women Championship in Kathmandu in September 2022.

Their comeback was marked by an opener against arch-rivals India in the region's biggest event which ended in a 3-0 defeat for the national side. In the next game Bangladesh crushed Pakistan 6-0. However, Pakistan salvaged some prestige when they routed Maldives 7-0 in their final group game with foreign-based player Nadia Khan scoring four goals.

This was followed by the women's team's second place finish in the four-nation event in Saudi Arabia in January 2023.

Pakistan started well by beating Comoros 1-0 in their opener. In their second show they were beaten by Mauritius 2-1 before they held hosts Saudi Arabia to a 1-1 draw to end as runners-up in the historic showpiece, an international women's event which Saudi Arabia hosted for the first time.

In April 2023, Pakistan featured in the 2024 Paris Olympics Qualifiers in Tajikistan. Pakistan lost to the Philippines 4-0 before they were beaten by Hong Kong 2-0. In their third show Pakistan conquered Tajikistan 1-0 to salvage some pride.

In July this year, Pakistan toured Singapore for a friendly where they faced a 0-1 defeat at the hands of the hosts. Initially two matches were scheduled to be held on the tour but the initial game was scratched with the mutual consent of both the parties after Pakistan's departure was delayed due to NOC issue.

On all these tours Pakistan did not play impressively and any decent display was not expected from the women crew as the brigade had assembled after years of inactivity.

The authorities used inexperienced coaching staff for all these tours. The results could have been much better had the authorities chosen top-level coaches. There are a few good coaches in Pakistan who need to be hired by the authorities as they are not only well qualified but also have the experience of handling women teams not only at the national level but also at the international level.

Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Normalisation Committee's initiative to give substantial incentives to the women's team in terms of match fee and daily allowances needs to be appreciated. The decision has instilled a new life in women football.

Both men and women national teams players are now getting equal incentives which is a bold step by the authorities.

I have learnt that during camps both men and women players get Rs7000 and daily allowance. During international tours, each player gets 75 US dollars daily allowance and 150 US dollars match fee which is a great incentive.

Additionally the players are also being provided with standard accommodation facilities, demonstrating a strong commitment to gender equality and the development of women's football in Pakistan.

As there is no proper domestic structure, team selection has always been a big issue.

And when a mediocre coaching staff is hired then selection becomes even more worse.

The authorities need to focus on young players so that a fighting lot could be prepared in the coming years. Some such players were used during the aforementioned events who have passed their prime. The authorities shouldn't go after mediocre foreign-based stuff and rather focus on young home-grown talent which will help build a strong side in future.

Let's ask Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Normalisation Committee chairman Haroon Malik and he will tell you about the women's team growth and the initiative he has taken for the development of women's football in the country.

"After an eight-year hiatus, the women's team made history by playing ten matches within a single calendar year for the first time. Prior to 2015 the women's team used to have infrequent appearances throughout the year," Haroon told 'The News on Sunday' in an interview.

"Following a few busy months the upcoming schedule of the Pakistan women football team has not been finalised. The upcoming FIFA Window is set for September, October, November and December. In the world of football the FIFA window holds immense significance. It provides an opportunity to the national teams to test their mettle against formidable opponents. Now all eyes are fixed on the unveiling of the official schedule," Haroon said.

"Unfortunately the team recently faced hurdles on the NOC's and visa fronts. The NOC obstacle has been a persistent issue for the past few months which is affecting the team's preparations and performance. As per the existing policy all sports organisations are required to submit their documents for NOC before traveling abroad and it takes a long time to process NOCs. While this policy aims to ensure smooth coordination it becomes problematic when the confirmation letter from the host country is received only two weeks before the event. This time constraint makes it challenging for the organisation to fulfill all the necessary requirements and adequately prepare for the competition," he said.

"The government must take into account the practical difficulties faced by the sports organisations when confirmation letters arrive with such limited notice. Additionally streamlining the visa issuance procedures can help eliminate unnecessary delays and enable teams to travel on time for their events," Haroon said.

"We are committed to developing both men and women teams as the players of both genders have suffered a lot during the last few years of inactivity. This is high time to support football," Haroon said.


Women’s football gains momentum