The Fly­ing Horse of Women’s Foot­ball

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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.

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