Sixteen young Pakistani women will make history this weekend as they compete in the IKabaddi World Cup. Pakistan is sending a women’s team to the November 30-December 14 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 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.”
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.
After chants of “Long live Pakistan” and “God is great”, the women begin physical training before moving on to wrestling techniques. “All the girls come from different games, some are from athletics, some are weightlifters,” said coach Aisha Qazi, herself a first-class cricketer and international baseball player. “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.”