The 12th National Women’s Championship concluded at the Karachi United Stadium with Army beating Karachi United 7-1 in the final.
The tournament, which took place after five years, highlighted the amount of work the federation needs to do for the women’s game, with the difference in the quality of a select few clubs and the rest being painfully obvious.
Pakistan captain Hajra Khan had scored a whopping seven goals as Army had defeated Karachi Kickers 18-0 just a few days ago. “It isn’t a lot of fun if a match finished 18-0 or something like that. It is kind of disappointing…it demoralises a lot of players,” she said. “There is no development at the moment; if these clubs were developed from the grass roots then it won’t be an 18-0 situation. The tournament has finally come back to life but there are still so many things that need to be fixed.”
WAPDA’s veteran midfielder and the tournament’s top-scorer Sehar Zaman was almost apologetic when discussing the difference in quality. “You’re right that scores shouldn’t go into double digits but you have to score as many as you can in order to improve your goal difference and ensure qualification,” said Sehar.
“We sometimes tried to keep the scoreline at 5-0 or 6-0 so that the other team doesn’t get disheartened either but sometimes we had to,” she said, as if embarrassed by how good her team was when compared to the others.
The problem, Sehar believes, stems froma lack of preparation. “There are some teams that start training just two or three days before the tournament, especially the provincial teams,” she said after her side’s defeat to Army in the second semi-finals on penalties, before going on to score two goals in WAPDA’s 10-0 triumph over Punjab in their third-place match as if to prove her point.
“The coaches need to spend more time with their players and develop their personalities along with their techniques. He needs to tell them that if you lose, you learn. I lost today and I will learn from it and next time I will improve myself.”
Sehar believes the girls could also do with better training equipment. “The coaches need to give proper time to their players and provide them with proper practice, equipment and facilities”
Problems other than the almost embarrassing gulf in quality plague the tournament too. “Some of the linesmen really didn’t know what they were doing,” said Hajra. “[The level of officiating] should have been so much better.”
Hajra was also unhappy with the quality of the Karachi United Stadium. “The ground and the goal posts are both smaller. The KPT is a better stadium, it is full size and has much more capacity as well.”
There are several patches of brown, especially out wide where Hajra spends most of her time. “Throw in daydo,” was often the message of the coaches when the bobbling ball became difficult to control on those sides of the ground.
“This pitch also I am not happy about,” said Hajra, casually waving her left arm in the general direction of the brown patches.
The Pakistan women’s team captain scored her side’s only goal in their semi-final clash against WAPDA that finished 1-1 before Army won on penalties but spent most of the time looking isolated on the right wing. “We had to play with a different formation in this game because the pitch is smaller. We had played all our group games at the KPT Stadium but then we have to play the semi-final and final here. You see the problem?” she said with an exasperated shrug. “I play where the coach tells me to play.”
The players are still happy that at least something is happening after a long period of frustrating inactivity. “This was the first tournament after five years,” pointed out Hajra.
There was a caveat though, and a major one. “It’s happening. We are happy it’s happening but if it’s not making us content or happy and it’s not done in the right way then what’s the point?”