Photograph courtesy Humans of Karachi
Photograph courtesy Humans of Karachi

Asmara Kiani is a member of the National Women Football Team and is also head coach for the Total Football Youth Academy, which provides training to under-16 players. She has represented Pakistan in international games and was declared the best player of Pakistan in the 8th National Women Football Championship.

Dawn caught up with her in Islamabad to talk about the stereotypes and limits placed on women who want to play sports.

Q: How did you get into football and what challenges did you face?

A: I was active in sports generally when I was in school. I started playing football at a more organised and professional level with my club, The Young Rising Stars (YRS) formed in 2007. We have been the national champions for five years and I became the captain of YRS in 2012, a position I still hold. The stereotype that football is not a woman’s game has followed me everywhere; in a society where women are expected to perform household chores, playing football came as a surprise. This doesn’t discourage me as I know there are emotional issues and criticism and it takes a lot of mental strength to deal with a society that may disagree with your ideas and what you do. What I do helps dispel the limits placed on women and it shows that empowered women exist in sports. I believe we need to make society accept the fact that women playing football is as normal as men playing the game.

Q: What are some of your achievements in football?

A: My biggest achievement has been representing my country at an international level. In 2009, as part of a sports envoy exchange programme I visited the United States of America. That was a great experience because I saw how advanced football is there and I learnt a great deal from that experience.

As a permanent member of Pakistan’s National Women Football Team I have represented my country in the SAFF Women Championship in Bangladesh in 2010 and in Sri Lanka in 2012. I was declared the best player of Pakistan in the 8th National Women Football Championship.

In this age where Pakistan is only known for religious fundamentalism and terror, empowered women and girls can be the new face of the country in international media by breaking new boundaries and reaching for the skies. As a woman I take a lot of pride in the fact that I am one of the very few who play football and excel at it. I hope that I can in some small way, through my efforts, present a positive image that represents what the real Pakistan is.

Q: What is next on the cards for you?

A: Football is my profession; I work as a coach and as a sports development officer. I look forward to more opportunities and more international exposure. For a year we haven’t had any professional football and we have been arranging amateur tournaments. We hope that organisations will step in and help increase tournaments and activities in football. I have been working like an ambassador for football.

Originally published in Dawn, December 15th, 2016