Pakistan’s journey back into the FIFA rankings will continue in January in the four-nation invitational football cup in Saudi Arabia.
It will be their second competitive campaign after being out of action for eight years.
Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) recently announced their fixtures on Twitter. The first match will be played on 11th January against Comoros.
They will then take on Mauritius before ending the tournament against Saudi Arabia.
Speaking to The Nation at a training camp, captain Maria Khan said: “We have been in training camp for the past few weeks, and the players participating in the camp are giving their best. We are hoping for positive results.”
The ban and the 2022 return
Pakistan have been forced off the pitch since November 2014. FIFA suspended the PFF several times for infighting and third-party interference. Despite the suspensions being occasionally lifted, the women’s team was never able to promptly field a team for the 2016 and 2019 South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Women’s Championship.
Since no games were played for almost eight years, the nation lost its place in the FIFA rankings.Embed from Getty Images
The long-awaited return was on 7th September 2022, after FIFA lifted a 14-month long suspension. It was just in time for the team to participate in the 2022 SAFF Women’s Championship.
It would have been considered a disappointing campaign for most teams, but it was a rewarding one for Pakistan who dusted off their boots.
They failed to progress past the group stages, having lost 3-0 to India and 6-0 to hosts Nepal.
The losses were somewhat expected for a team that had not competed in nearly a decade, but they reserved their Kathmandu miracle for the last fixture. Recording their biggest ever win, they defeated Maldives 7-0.
Doncaster Rovers Belles forward, Nadia Khan bagged four goals and became the team’s joint record goal scorer after earning only three call-ups.
Successful nations such as Morocco and India — who are still developing their women’s teams — are a blueprint for countries like Pakistan, who have had to start from scratch.
Though the 2022 SAFF Women’s Championship was cut short, the invitational cup in January will be a better and fairer test for Pakistan’s comeback into the football world.