The Flying Horse of Women’s Football
It is rare to see a girl of her age, defying all odds and becoming a star footballer in Pakistan overnight. Quite misogynistic in approach, Pakistan society generally discourages women taking a lead role in any walk of life. But Shahlyla Ahmedzai Baloch, the girl from Kalat, Balochistan, was different. She could not genuflect easily before the manmade social norms. Flouting the idea that battling conventional notions can be a perilous task, she took up the gauntlet and put her best to prove her talent in football which is still considered a man’s sport in Pakistan and in most parts of the world.
Shahlyla, was a striker in the national women’s football team. She was spectacular with her brilliance and shrewdness on the field. She left her mark on the world when she scored a hat-trick during her stint in the Maldives in 2015 and became the first Pakistani woman to grab this milestone in a foreign league. She represented Pakistan at the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) and Women Football Championship 2014 in Islamabad. She also played a key role in Pakistan’s 4-1 victory over Bhutan in the SAFF Women Football Championship 2014. Her passion was as immense as her talent. She was awarded FIFA’s youngest player award at the age of 7. She also had the honour of being the best player of Pakistan three times in 2009, 2011 and 2013. No wonder, she was rightly dubbed as the flying horse of women’s football because of her blistering pace and dodging ability.
She belonged to a sports-loving family. Her mother, Senator Rubina Irfan, has been the chairperson of the Pakistan Football Federation women’s wing and her sister, Raheela Zaman, was the manager of the Pakistan Women’s Football Team. Her mother once said that she let her daughters play football to inspire other parents.
Though Shahlyla is no more but her name and contribution in promoting football among Pakistani women will not fade away that easily. She was an inspiration and a role model for those who want to break the shackles and lead their lives in a winning style. Let’s pray that young girls take inspiration from Shahlyla.