Pakistan fields their first-ever women's Kabaddi team

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Pakistan fields their first-ever women's Kabaddi team
Islamabad, Dec 3: It was a proud moment for Pakistan. On Monday, a 16-member women's team from Pakistan played their first-ever international level Kabaddi match in India - their first step towards international recognition, breaking off from the shackles of tradition.

A popular game in the Punjab provinces of India and Pakistan, Kabaddi is traditionally regarded as a masculine game. It is also played in countries around the world with South Asian populations.

Speaking to AFP, Sayeda Fareeda Khanum, 24, a Kabaddi player said she comes from a conservative family where she fought for years to be allowed to compete in sports. For her, 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 during 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 make a do-or-die battle for my nation and prove that Pakistani girls can do whatever women do in other countries," she said.

It is their determination to succeed that leads the team members.

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

Authorities, after they decided to field a women's tea, wrote to top sports organisations and educational institutions, collecting a group from diverse backgrounds.

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

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

Authorities and their head coach have invested lot of confidence in these ladies. Head coach Ghulam Abbas Butt said he was confident that 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."

Monday's match ended in a 45-39 defeat to Denmark. The Pakistan women also face England and Mexico in their group, while archrivals India, who beat New Zealand 44-12 on Sunday, play the United States and Kenya.

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