Force behind girl powerhttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/force-behind-girl-power/

Force behind girl power

Former Afghanistan keeper Faiz Mohammad Naziri encourages girls to take to football

Former Afghanistan keeper Faiz Mohammad Naziri encourages girls to take to football

Sitting in the spectators stands of the Ambedkar Stadium,Faiz Mohammad Naziri has a determined look on his face,as he watches a match of the Subroto Cup. Alongside him sit the girls of Kabul’s Rabia Balkhi High School. And while his side are considered curiosities for the most part,coach Naziri has high expectations from his team who play their first match of the U-17 girls tournament on Thursday.

The same team played the tournament last year as well and finished the league phase with a record of one win,one draw and one loss. This time the squad elicits hope of an improvement and perhaps even reaching the knock out stage. “Last year my players struggled because they were playing with just a month’s experience. This time they have been playing for a year,” says Naziri.

While the girls team he coaches is still relatively inexperienced,coach Naziri is at the other end of the spectrum. Naziri represented the Afghan team as a goalkeeper between 1967 to 1979 playing matches. Once his playing career ended he switched to coaching. “I am completely passionate about this game. Other than when I had to play I never left my country because I wanted the game to grow here. Even during the war and then the time of the Taliban,I stayed in Kabul. I stayed behind. The country was in a lot of chaos but I still tried to coach,” he says.

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Throughout his career,Naziri had coached boys. It was after the Taliban were defeated,when Naziri found employment by the Department of Education,that his new job required him to coach both boys and girls. Much of the challenge of coaching girls, comes before they even reach the field,says Naziri who has been coaching girls for the last four years.

“Most families aren’t willing to let their girls to play football. So whenever a girl shows interest in the game,I personally go to her home and convince her family to let her play.The parents usually are very respectful of me because I had played for the national team for many years and many people remember me from then on. Depending on the families it can take a long time. But I have always managed to convince them in the end,” says Naziri.

Despite Naziri’s efforts,the coach says that the number of girls who play is still limited. That trickle results in another challenge. “Since there are not many players,they do not have many matches to play. It became difficult when I had to select players to form a team. The girls are usually playing among themselves inside the school and based on how they are playing,I pick them,” he says.

While Naziri says he wasn’t too confident of his ward’s skills,he now supports them completely. “There is no shortage of will power and once the children start playing,even their families are supportive. But we lack support in the form of finances,equipment and kits. On most occassions,the family of players and sometimes even myself will have to take money from our own pockets to fund the game,” he says. “He is like our father,” says team captain Zrafshan,of the only male member of the team.

However while Naziri has been able to help numerous girls play the game he loves,he has had less support in his own family. “My son always wanted to play football and now he is a goalkeeper in a club in Kabul. I have three daughters as well but they were always more interested in studies than football. I would have liked it if they had played as well but I support them in whatever they want to do,” he says.

West Bengal in semis

Kalyanghar Vidya Mandir,West Bengal became the last team to book the semifinal berth in the boys U-14 category when they beat Simalguri High School,Assam 3-1 on Wednesday. Shanu Majumder scored a brace (4th,47th ) while Prakash Sarkar chipped in in the 32 nd minute. They will next face Government High School,Meghalaya.