Pakistani eves are enthusiastically joining the Indian bandwagon when it comes to playing hockey.
Aamna Meer, skipper of Pakistan's women hockey team, said: “Now, many girls have started playing the game and our national team has become strong. This can be gauged from our performance in the recently held Women Asia Challenge Cup in Bangkok, where we bagged the 4th position in the winners' tally.” The team was in Jalandhar to participate in Surjit Memorial Hockey Tournament.
“Though the sport is yet to gain ground at school level, nearly all colleges in Pakistan have constituted a woman hockey team and an inter-college tournament is held every year to promote it,” said Meer, who is also captain of the national hockey team.
On being asked if she or her teammates faced any problem in joining the sport in a country where women preferred to wear hijab (head covering worn in public by Muslim women), Meer said initially they struggled a lot, but with the support of their parents even society had recognised and accepted the role of women in sports.
“Initially, I wanted to join cricket. But when I gave a trial for hockey at my college, those selecting players praised the way I played. So, I joined the game and finally became my team's captain,” she said.
However, she rued that lack of sponsors for hockey as compared to cricket was still a major hindrance in pushing women players to their optimum best.
But, a few departments, including railways and WAPDA (power company), had come forward to promote women hockey by offering good jobs to players, she said.
Expressing her enthusiasm at her first visit to India, Meer, a student of the Lahore College for Women University, said: “It is so exciting to be in India. The hospitality we were extended by Punjabis is beyond expression.”
Nafeesa Anwar, vice-captain of the team, hails from Gojra district of Pakistan. Gojra has emerged as a hub of the country's hockey. Anwar said she started playing hockey in 2007 and did not face any difficulty in joining the stream despite society being conservative.
“My parents are very supportive and they only encouraged me to join hockey,” she said, adding that now they were proud of her as she had proved her mettle.
Usman Mohammed, coach of the visiting team, said: “These girls are all set to achieve new heights. I am confident that they will qualify for the upcoming Asian Games and World Cup as well.”
Chak de India boosts them up
Team's captain Aamna Meer said she usually watched “Chak de India”, starring Shahrukh Khan, for motivation. "Chak de is the favourite movie of all women hockey players. Before every key match, my team and I usually refresh the memories of this movie to chalk out our game strategy on ground,” she added.