Pakistan president praises womens' football growth

Pakistan's president, Gen Pervez Musharraf, has praised the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) for popularising football throughout the country. "The recently witnessed increase in the activity of football under PFF president Makhdoom Faisal Saleh Hayat is not only a record but a testament of the popularity of the grass root-level," he observed in his message to PFF on 29 September at Jinnah Stadium following the first-ever National Women Football Championship.

"Pakistan through its democratic values has always endeavored to provide fair and equal rights to its women nationals. The active participation of women in sports, politics, business and other professions, side by side their male colleagues is a strong and clear message to the civilized world that IR Pakistan is a progressive, liberal and moderate Islamic Society which truly believes and supports fair play in all walks of life." he added.

Earlier, Robina Irfan, president of the Balochistan Woman Football Association and a member of the provincial parliament, stressed the need for the establishment of football academies for women. She said the promotion of women's football was a "heartening sign" for women but facilities needed a boost. She added there should be woman referees and coaches and a women's wing within the Football Federation.

News agencies report that a brawl broke out after the award of a penalty in the final stages of the women's championship game although authorities dismiss the incident as a "football flare-up". The final was played between Punjab province and Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) and the penalty led to the solitary goal in the game for Punjab. "Wapda goalie Azra Matloob stopped the penalty kick and Sheka Nazeer scored off the rebound, but since Azra got injured the Wapda players were furious," a Pakistan Football Federation spokesman told AFP, as quoted by the BBC.

There was a long delay before the match could be restarted with the Wapda players reportedly threatening to walk off. Pakistan's Daily Times said play resumed after Pakistan Sports Board director general Arif Mehmud Siddique intervened. The Daily Times said there was another scuffle after the game as Punjab celebrated. "The girls of both teams freely kicked and punched each other. The catfight forced the tournament organisers to enter the ground and put an end to the brawl," it reported.

Update: A two-year ban has been imposed on two senior women footballers and their coach following the final of Pakistan's women's football championship. “Wapda captain Munaza Nazeer, player Khalida Noor and their male coach Qasim Shah have been banned for two years after they fought with opponent Punjab team in the final last week,” said Pakistan Football Federation president Faisal Saleh Hayat. They are the first Pakistani sportswomen to face a ban in the country. “We want to set a precedent that indiscipline can never be tolerated,” said Hayat, also a federal minister. The players have the right to appeal against the ban. (3 Oct, The Star)

See also: Pakistani women footballers avoid temptation (22 Sept)