- UAE-based Maria Khan will lead Pakistan team.
- “Inshallah we will make you guys proud,” Maria says confidently.
- Maria says she is looking forward to representing Pakistan to the best of her abilities.
KARACHI: September 7 will be a historic day for Pakistan women’s football team as Pakistan will take on India to kick off its campaign in the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Women Championship after an eight-year-long wait.
UAE-based Maria Khan will lead the Pakistan team who will enter the field for her international debut wearing the captain’s armband.
In an exclusive interview with Geo News, Maria spoke about her journey, her experience of being in the Pakistan camp and her plans for the team.
The 31-year-old goal-keeper turned mid-fielder said that the Pakistan team is “not in Nepal just to show off” and players are really looking forward to competing well.
“We’re hungry, we’re looking to come in and compete, we’re not here to just show up. The girls are really excited. Really excited for the opportunity to finally get back on the international stage after eight years. There’s good energy throughout the camp,” she told TIF News from Kathmandu after the team’s first training session there.
“One of the key strengths within the team is that we do have a young team and that means our girls are able to recover a lot quicker as well as adapt and learn information and absorb information very quickly as well,” the captain said.
“Inshallah we will make you guys proud,” Maria said confidently.
Maria is one of two overseas players selected by the Pakistan Football Federation for the SAFF Cup. Maria has remained part of the Pakistan football circuit since 2018 and has not only attended national camps but also participated in the national women’s football championship.
Speaking about her journey, Maria said that she started playing football 25 years ago at the age of six.
“My experience started in the US, where I started playing at the age of six. I transitioned from a fields player to the goalkeeper and then I continued to play goalkeeper all the way throughout my time in the US. I played Division One soccer at the University of Denver,” she said.
“Once I finished university, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. At that time, the women’s pro league in the US was very volatile, there would be one season where it was on and one season where it was off. So, pursuing a professional football career back in 2013, even in the US, was not a realistic option. So, I decided to continue my education and I ended up being in the UAE and played football professionally,” Maria recalled.
Talking about her debut match, the footballer said that it is an honour to lead and represent the country and she will be doing that to the best of her abilities.
“Inshallah, on September 7, I will get the opportunity to earn my first international cap. It is an absolute honour to be in the position that I am in. It’s been quite a journey for me, I’ve waited 20-plus years for this chance; there’s a lot of emotions happening. I have been given an opportunity to help lead this team and my role within that is just a small role compared to the role that every single girl on this team plays,” she said.
The USA-born footballer added that the preparatory camp ahead of SAFF Cup was an “absolutely amazing” experience and it helped her develop not only as a player on the pitch but also as a person and a human being off the pitch.