Football Hijab Empowers Pakistani Women

KARACHI – Overjoyed with the recent decision to lift hijab ban in football pitches, Pakistani women footballers believe that the “historic” decision will boost the sport in Pakistan, particularly in the rural areas where Hijab is a must.

“This is a historic development as it will pave the way for scores of (women) footballers who could not play the sport in different parts of the country  as their parents do not allow them to play without observing hijab,” Naila Khan, a member of Pakistan’s national football squad, said.

“We welcome this decision, which will enable girls in remote areas, where Hijab is part of our culture, to take up the game,”  Naila, 23, who is also working as a sports teacher at a private school in port city of Karachi, said.

The new decision to allow hijab on football matches was announced by FIFA officials last week, overturning a 2007 ban.

The ban, she observed, had not merely hit Pakistan, but various other Islamic countries too.

“It (ban) was not merely the issue for Pakistani footballers, but I know that several potential players were affected by the ban in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and even in India, where parents do not let their daughters to play with uncovered head,” she added.

“But, I hope, things will change now”. “When parents will see (other) girls playing football in hijab, they will and should allow their daughters for the same,” Naila opined.

“I do not wear scarf but I truly feel that it is a very good decision, and should have been taken much earlier,” she added.

Naila thinks that inner satisfaction is essential for a player.

“If you force a girl not wear hijab, which wants to and used to, I think she will not be able to show her full skills in the game because she is not mentally satisfied,” she observed.

“A (female) player should not be technically knocked out just because she wears scarf,” she maintained.

Mehwish Khan, another female footballer hailing from Karachi agrees.

“This is a welcoming decision for not only Pakistani (women) footballers, but for the players of entire Islamic countries,” Mehwish who too represents Pakistan on international level, said.

“The decision shows respect and honor for our religion and culture. I congratulate the FIFA for that,” an apparently happy Mehwish said.

New Footballers

Organizers and players expressed hope that the lifting of hijab ban will attract more females to the sport.

“The international sports authorities must understand the difference between ours and the Western culture. What is acceptable there is not acceptable here,” Ahmed Jan, a Karachi-based female football trainer, said.

“Therefore, unnecessary bans and restrictions should not be imposed in sports.

“Various girls, who had the potential to represent the national squad, could not come forward because of this ban,” Jan, who has been the trainer of seven players of national women football squad, regretted.

Jan thinks that the permanent lifting of ban on hiab for women footballers will send a positive message to the Islamic world from the West.

“I do not doubt the intention of FIFA, but the ban (on hijab) had sent a negative message to the Muslim world, where it was politically exploited as well,” he opined.

Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.

InFebruary 2012, Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan, FIFA vice-president, warned that Muslim women would be driven away from soccer fields if the football’s governing body decided to ban the wearing of hijab in playgrounds.

In incumbent national football squad, only one player, Abeeha Haider wears scarf. She started observing hijab last year after performing Umrah.

Women football in Pakistan is in its early stage with 22 active clubs and some 400 players across the country. Most of the clubs are in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, Multan, and Faisalabad cities.

Pakistani women football squad is going to play home and away friendly matches against Qatar in May 2014. A training camp to tune up the players is going to start from next month, the officials said.

The South Asian nuclear Muslim nation will also host South Asian Women Football Federation Cup in December this year with India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Nepal are expected to compete.