“Log Kia kahengay.” (What will people say) is a phrase that is deeply etched into a female’s brain from the moment she takes her first breath. Throughout a Pakistani woman’s life, the society constantly instills and re-instills its hold on her passion and dreams, and in most cases, its rabid hands do manage to wring these women dry of any semblance of individuality. Due to the fact that these women have been brought up in conservative households, they feel like they have no choice but to obediently comply and hand over their ambitions and wishes to the cold and bitter hands of the society.
One of these women, however, stood by her dreams and ambitions no matter how many obstacles the society threw in her way. She not only stood bravely in the face of adversity but also took back the reigns of her life and decided that no one except for her has the authority to make decisions in her stead. This woman in question is Asmara Kiani, a Pakistani professional football player who broke away from stereotypes and made it clear that the football field is not exclusively a place for men. Asmara, through pure willpower and talent, has become a renowned figure in the world of football and is currently playing for the Young Rising Star female football club and Pakistan’s National women football team.
Born and raised in Islamabad, Asmara Kiani has always been aware of the athletic talent that surged through her veins, she started pursuing sports or more specifically football since a very young age. Her official vocational training started in 2007 when she joined the ‘The Rising Young Stars (YRS) club. Asmara throughout her journey has been focused, hardworking and determined, these factors have added up to her finding success in the long run.
One of Asmara’s many achievements is that she was selected as the best female player from Pakistan in the 8th National Women Football Championship. She is not only a player but also acts as a coach for the Total Football Youth Academy, where she works hard to ensure that others with similar dreams as her are provided the guidance that they need. In 2012 Asmara also became captain of the YRS team.
Asmara has revealed that she belongs to a conservative and traditional household and therefore her dreams were not only thought of as irrational and immoral but were just generally looked down upon. According to her, most people in her family expected her to leave behind her passion for football and stick to household chores. She has mentioned that her cousins and their initial disdain for her choices made her feel rejected and confined. But what stopped her from giving up and bending to their misogynistic wills is the immense support shown to her by her father. Her father not only stood by her as she walked on the strenuous path she had chosen for herself but also provided her with motivation and emotional aid when Asmara found herself feeling despondent due to the lack of support from other sources. Due to her father being there for her whenever she needed him, Asmara soon walked out of the shadows of self-doubt and found her voice in a society that was more than keen on silencing her. One of the biggest rewards Asmara has gotten for not giving up on her dreams is the sheer ecstasy she feels when she sees the youth playing in front of her, young girls that look up to her and are inspired by her. Because of Asmara and her dedication to her cause, countless little girls with fragile dreams are willing to come out and play football.
One of Asmara’s long-term plans is that she wants to not only represent Pakistan at international events but also perform in such a way as to make her country proud. She wants to help bring some well-deserved spotlight onto women’s football, not only within our borders but also on an international level, in an attempt to bring recognition and acknowledgment for the players that usually get overshadowed by their male counterparts.
Asmara was interested in sports from the time she was in school but started playing football at a more organized level when she joined her club. Her club, Young Rising Stars (YRS) formed in about 2007 and has been the national champion for almost five years.Football in itself is a word that is very rarely associated with females and this stereotype of ‘football not being a woman’s game’ has plagued Asmara since the very beginning and even now. The world that we live in, especially in a country like Pakistan, women are brought up to be perfect brides and are expected to be able to perform household chores. If they fail to do so, they are rejected by the society entirely. But all of this has never been able to faze or discourage Asmara, as she knows that the path she has chosen and what she does (playing football in a male-dominated world) has opened doors that no one had the audacity to before. Everyday Asmara is proud of the decisions she has made in life because her decisions have helped break through the limits that society has placed on women. She wholeheartedly believes that we need to make society accept the fact that women playing football are as normal as men playing the game.
According to her, her biggest achievement to date has been representing her country at an international level, something that has always been her dream. This dream became a reality in 2009 when as part of a sports envoy exchange programme she visited the United States of America as a representative. It was a life-changing event for Asmara, as she not only gained experience but by seeing international football arrangements, she also realized what football in Pakistan lacks and what it needs in order to more
My biggest achievement has been representing my country at an international level. Asmara is also a permanent member of Pakistan’s National Women Football Team and has represented Pakistan in the SAFF Women Championship in Bangladesh in 2010 and in Sri Lanka in 2012.
In the era we live in, Pakistan has somehow become a figure that, to many represents intolerance, terrorism, and extremism. This ordeal has deeply affected the image of our homeland and caused the people of this nation infinite grief. According to Asmara, women empowerment is a key factor in fixing this distorted image that others seem to carry with us. Women and girls can be the new face of the country in international media by breaking new boundaries and reaching for the skies. This will also shatter the stereotype of Pakistani women being consensually oppressed and serving as nothing more than breeding machines. Asmara thinks that she, through her efforts in the field of soccer and athletics, has been able to paint a positive picture of Pakistan abroad, and this is only one of many examples of how women can bring forth change in mentalities.
However, even after her intense efforts, women football has not been getting the amount of exposure it truly deserves. Unlike cricket, which is funded on an immensely grander scale, the football association rarely is given the funds it so desperately needs. Asmara’s club, however, did receive funding from the US embassy back in 2007, yet after that, there has been little to no funding. Asmara believes that to provide a better environment for young football players in Pakistan, we first need to end corruption as the negative political influence in sports lobbies tend to take the attention away from the actual matters that need it. Asmara firmly believes that the deteriorating condition of men and women in sports is directly proportional to politics, as politicians usually choose to use their power for their gains and not for the betterment troublesome predicaments. For about almost a year there has been no initiative of arranging professional football tournaments for women, which is not only saddening but also has disheartened many of the young ladies who want to pursue their passion. Asmara has been working hard as a sort of ambassador for women football in Pakistan and is extremely hopeful that organizations and NGO will step in, in the near future and provide the necessary help.
The lesson we need to learn from Asmara and her journey is that we need to believe in ourselves, in our abilities and our dreams. Even if you are a woman belonging to a traditional household, even if people mock you, even if you think you are not good enough, even if you think the society will not accept you, Go and follow your dreams. Do not wait for the right moment, do not make excuses, do not give up before you even try. You can achieve so much more than you think.