Raheela elected as a first lady football coach in South Asia region
A short interview with Raheela Zarmeen with a professional men’s football team coach. By Mah Jabeen
The young Raheela Zarmeen has set a history now, she is been chosen as a coach for professional men’s football team, for Karachi Electric. She is the first lady coach in South Asia region.
Raheela Zarmeen was raised along with two siblings in Balochistan. She began playing football on a hockey field at Quetta Girls College. Ms Zarmeen is now serving as a manager of the National Women’s Football Team as well as a brand ambassador for Leisure League.
Q: Who inspired you to play football?
A: Well, it wasn,t much inspiration as from my parents in selecting a sports profession, but instead there were lot of players that inspired and one name stands tall: David Beckham, “David Beckham was always the player I imitated, not just because of his diverse hairstyle looks or the eye catchy tattoos but he is truly a fantastic player”. As per playground rules dictate the kids players pretend to be footballers while participating in a kick-around.
Q: Who has supported you in choosing football as a career?
A: I have struggled a lot and my parents were my biggest support obviously without their support and motivation, It was never been possible to overcome all the obstacles and hurdles and I kept standing firm. My parents as well my sisters fully supported me in choosing football as a career, and not merely a hobby.
Q: Have you faced any criticism in attaining your dream?
A: Well as a Pakistani tribal province of Balochistan lady citizen, I was ultimately bound to face various obstacles, and that was exactly the case with me. One of the worst hindrances was to have to play football for five years (2001-2009) on a hockey field. We did not get any support from the provincial government. The government authority did not even recognize our efforts and contribution. In 2012, we bagged a bronze medal back home to Balochistan, and was also awarded silver and gold medals in 2013 and 2014, Despite of all these achievements, we failed to receive no recognition from the government.
My late sister, Shayla Baloch, was declared the youngest player by FIFA. And she was the first Pakistani footballer to do a hat-trick in a foreign league, but neither the provincial nor the federal government honoured her contribution.
The common criticism which we faced due our mom, Senator Rubina Irfan, she was the former president of the Balochistan women’s football team, [and claim that] as the reason we came so far and made a name. But they never count struggle and our passion for football that we gain name domestically and internationally.
I remember an article published in Dawn on 22 Nov 2014 , they accused my mom of advancing us. That article was written by Umaid Wasim, it also slammed us while ignoring our achievements. Despite facing unfair criticism, our mom supported us and never let us think negatively.
Well obstacles are part of the journey to success and I have a sense that I might be facing them in the future as well, but my vision is clear and I’m focused on my plans and how I am going to cross all barriers crossing my path.
Q: Have you taken any initiative to promote football in Balochistan, specifically in the rural areas?
A: The day I started playing football on a hockey field in Quetta. We sisters Shayla and Sohaila were the first to lead the girls, because it was us who first initiated this idea of practicing football on a hockey field. We used to reach the field as early as we could. We also followed the football code of conduct involving wearing skirts and other rules that were seen as taboo in Balochistan. This way other female players were motivated to wear skirts too.
At the moment, I am also brand ambassador for Leisure League. We took initiative through Leisure League, and have started to construct football fields in some cities in Balochistan in order to encourage women to play football part time. Recently the Gwadar field project is ready, and I will be visiting there soon and will promote football. I will visit other cities as well, once the fields are ready.