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Members of the Pakistan women's Kabaddi team pray before a practice match at the Punjab Stadium in Lahore. —Photo by AFP
Members of the Pakistan women's Kabaddi team pray before a practice match at the Punjab Stadium in Lahore. —Photo by AFP
Members of the Pakistan women's Kabaddi team exercise at a gym in Lahore. —Photo by AFP
Members of the Pakistan women's Kabaddi team exercise at a gym in Lahore. —Photo by AFP

LAHORE: Sixteen young Pakistani women will make history this weekend as they compete in the 2013 Kabaddi World Cup — the first time the country has ever fielded an international women's team in the sport.

The traditional tag-wrestling sport involves players trying to tag an opponent before making it back to their half of the field.

Kabaddi is hugely popular in the Punjab provinces of India and Pakistan, where it originates, and is played in countries around the world with South Asian populations.

It has traditionally been seen as a macho sport but now Pakistan is sending a women's team to the November 30-December 14, 2013 World Cup in India.

For 24-year-old Sayeda Fareeda Khanum, who comes from a conservative, religious family where she fought for years to be allowed to compete in sports, it is a dream come true.

“I have been sports crazy since childhood and was selected for national events in various sports many times, but I was never allowed by my family to attend a training camp outside college or university,” she said.

“But when I got selected for the Kabaddi team, I told my mother that I would play this sport at any cost and left home to join the camp in Lahore.”

Khanum, the team's best defender, spoke to AFP between sessions in a tough fitness workout at Lahore's Punjab stadium. “Getting the national colours was my childhood dream. I am going to India to fight a do-or-die battle for my nation and prove that Pakistani girls can do everything women do in other countries,” she said.

India and Pakistan, neighbours and ferocious sporting rivals, have met in two of the three men's World Cup finals held so far, with India prevailing both times.

The women are determined to succeed where their male counterparts have failed.

“We decided to participate in this team for the sake of Pakistan, and for the sake of true patriotism. And we have tried our level best, and by the will of God we will succeed,” Vice-captain Sumera Zahoor, who comes from a martial arts background, said.

Having decided to build the women's team, the authorities wrote to top sports organisations and educational institutions, collecting a group of girls coming from diverse sporting backgrounds.

Half already represent various other sports like athletics, weightlifting and racket games, while a few new players with the right attitude and ambitions have also earned a place in the team.

Training for the women in green, yellow and blue tracksuits begins with prayers and a recitation from the Quran.

After chants of “Long live Pakistan” and “God is great”, they begin physical training before moving on to wrestling techniques.

It has not been an easy task for the support staff to get the team together and direct their potential.

“All the girls come from different games, some are from athletics, some are weightlifters,” Aisha Qazi, the team's coach, said.

“These are individual players' games but Kabaddi is a team event, so there is a huge difference and it has taken me some time to teach them.”

Qazi, herself a first-class cricketer and international baseball player, said they were thrilled to be the first women's team to represent Pakistan in international Kabaddi.

Head coach Ghulam Abbas Butt said he was confident the women's team would live up to their promise.

“I hope the boys' team will win the World Cup this time and the girls would also not disappoint in their first appearance,” he said.

“I have done this training with my heart, and they followed it the same way. These were new girls and they have done whatever I asked them to do. That's why I know that they will play well,” he said.

The Pakistan women face England, Mexico and Denmark in their pool matches while arch rivals India play the United States, Kenya and New Zealand.

Comments (24) Closed

sherie Nov 30, 2013 02:48pm

best of luck girls, and no matter what the outcome dont forget to enjoy the experience.

Fabio Natoo Nov 30, 2013 04:54pm

All the Best Pakistan Women's Kabaddi Team. Welcome to India!

azmat khan Nov 30, 2013 06:06pm

Good luck girls.Why women should lag behind.You all have courage, might and determination. Go ahead.You will win and brighten Pakistan's name.

VGP Nov 30, 2013 07:01pm

OMG they are showing their ankles

Snoopy Nov 30, 2013 07:56pm

Welcome to India! Good news for the region. But why do you feel the need to pray before everything? Too much religion spoils everything. Why can't you keep religion out of sports or anything which has nothing to do with religion? Why don't you keep it as something personal to be used within you? Anyway, I respect your right to pray and am not questioning it. But I just wonder if it would not be much better if you kept religion in your heart and did not wear it on your sleeves?

Waseem Dec 01, 2013 02:15am

All the best girls. We want to see you at the top of sportsmanship and fighting spirit.

Indian Dec 01, 2013 07:59am

I wish the Pakistani girls team success.

Vikram Dec 01, 2013 11:12am

Best of luck and welcome to India.

Shrirang Thakur Dec 01, 2013 12:37pm

Best luck Pakistan,

iqbal carrim Dec 01, 2013 12:38pm

Hats off to our Pakistani sisters.Sports do measure the degree of civilization and health of a nation.Congratulations to the sponsors.(Imagine our sisters in Iraq,Syriaetc who do not have the same luck)

Indian Dec 01, 2013 02:37pm

welcome to India.

raja hindustani Dec 01, 2013 04:26pm

Way to go gals..!!! Welcome to the competition.

azmat khan Dec 01, 2013 06:08pm

@Indian:Thank you.

azmat khan Dec 01, 2013 06:09pm

@Shrirang Thakur: Thank you Thakur

azmat khan Dec 01, 2013 06:13pm

@Snoopy: I support your thoughts

azmat khan Dec 01, 2013 06:15pm

@Fabio Natoo: Thank you

Nazia Dec 02, 2013 12:38am

@VGP: you can mock the religion but when you are standing and you will be infront of your Creator then i am sure you will not be is same mode ... but i sincerly pray for you that the Creator show the light before the moment of death arrives

Ernest Bowen Dec 02, 2013 03:51am

Good luck Girls take the RELIGION out of SPORT, there is no reason that Pakistanis Men or Women can fail in any Sport , go Greens Pakistan Zindabad

Ernest Bowen Dec 02, 2013 03:57am

@Snoopy: I 100% agree leave the religion out of the game, praying before the game is good Just the Religion part

mimi sur Dec 02, 2013 11:21am

I think Just like Pak cricket team , these Kabadi team members are also religious fanatics . By reciting 'God is Great' , if they think their chances of win increases , then best of luck to these ladies . Sport is a sport and neither God has to do anything in this nor God is interested in this.:)

Palvasha von Hassell Dec 02, 2013 03:27pm

All power to the girls, and why should there be anything wrong with their saying "God is Great"? Nothing to stop them if they choose to do so. Hope they do well.

nasir Dec 02, 2013 06:36pm

@mimi sur: sir, in my humble opinion if any one finds peace and strength from believing in something which is not harmful to any other living being than please let this freedom of faith with him/her. i myself believe religion or God has nothing to do with the outcomes but please let freedom of choice prevail.

tanweer abbas Dec 02, 2013 07:22pm

my best wishes for our girls....

Raju Dec 03, 2013 01:22am

First Malala and now these gals, congratulations Pakistan, you're heading in right direction( a path to progress).