By Aisha Tariq, Islamabad
I stepped out into the field. The sun was brighter than ever, and the blue sky was dotted with clouds. There were huge bleachers that were usually overflowing with people, but not today. Out of the few people that were present, most of them were parents here to cheer on their daughters. I sighed; if only more people would take interest in girl’s football. I rubbed my brand new cleats against the grass and stood up straight alongside my team-mates as the national anthem echoed around the stadium. Today was our big game against Maldives. We had been practicing hard for days and were determined to win. The referee blew the whistle, and the game began. Since we had won the toss and chosen the goal, the other team was given the kick-off.
Everyone immediately ran after the person who held possession of the ball. My heart was racing as I tackled the girl and neatly passed it on to my teammate, Aliyah. The Maldives players rushed towards their goal but we were already far ahead of them. Aliyah passed me the ball and I scored! The game carried on like this, and the only goal our opposing team scored, was in the extra two minutes. After the match was over, our coach greeted us delightedly and rewarded us each with a pat on the back. “You girls did a great job out there!” He grinned. “Thanks coach. Guess the hard work paid off.” We high fived one another! “Keep it up.” We nodded and headed towards the changing rooms. “What a game!” Maha exclaimed, while we sat down and relaxed. “It was quite something.” I answered and took off my shoes. “You know, we should get more people to come to our games. Its sad with hardly anyone but our parents. I mean, have you seen how many people turn up when the guys play?” Aiman complained. “Yeah, but that’s just how life is.” Aliyah looked bored as she swung her legs back and forth on the bench. “I’m gonna go now. Dad’s waiting outside.”I jumped up, and grabbed my bag. “See you guys tomorrow at practice!”
“Hey, you guys played pretty well today.” My dad smiled as I hopped into the car.
“Yeah dad”, “You seem a little down today. Everything alright?” “I’m fine, just tired.” “Let’s get you a burger then!” He playfully punched me as we parked outside a famous fast food restaurant. After ordering two burgers, my dad plopped down onto a seat next to me. “Oh and I completely forgot. There’s something very important I have to tell you.” I looked at him expectantly. “There was a guy there, watching the match. Co-incidentally, I was sitting next to him, and he showed great interest in you guys. He thinks you guys have great potential, and that with a little hard work, you could qualify for the Fifa, next year.” My eyes widened. “Go on dad.” “You know what he wanted to do?” My dad gave a dramatic pause. “He wanted to invest in you guys! He’s going to get you sponsors and the money you need for state of the art training facilities. He’s going to meet up with your coach tomorrow!” I let out an excited squeal and hugged him. “For real?” He nodded and motioned towards my burger. “Now eat.” The next day, at training, the coach told us just that and none of us could believe it! We were finally going to get a chance to prove ourselves and we were definitely not going to blow it.
For the next four months, we had training every single day. The man would watch us silently from afar, and give us some advice at the end of the day. His name was Michael, and he had previously been a commentator at matches. The job gave him more money than he could ever spend, so with years of experience and a good eye for football players, he set off to different countries, in search of a fantastic team. Since he was close to some of the Fifa qualifiers, he was sure they would accept us once they saw how we played. He was giving us an opportunity, we had only dreamed of before. Word spread like fire throughout the country, and many people objected. They felt that girls should not be playing football, especially internationally, and we got a lot of hate on social media, and even within families, since some were from extremely conservative backgrounds. During all this, we were still determined to prove that girls could play just as well as boys, given the opportunity. After a full year, when every one of us was bone-tired by the huge amount of practice, we flew to Spain where the qualifiers would watch us play. The flight was 15 hours long, and throughout the lengthy ride, our nervous chatter could be heard in the plane.
The day after we arrived, we played against a team that had been assigned for us, in front of the qualifiers. They stopped us halfway through the match and told us we had been selected! We thanked Micheal and our coach profusely for the time and belief they had invested in us. The Women’s Fifa World Cup had come to an end. We had not been able to win in the semi-finals, but even getting that far seemed to be a great accomplishment. Before, no one had heard the name of Pakistan in football, and today we were making thousands of Pakistani’s proud. This was just proof of the fact that if you sincerely believed in your dreams, and worked hard, anything could be achieved.