While the world witnessed England women’s national football team finally take the Euro 2022 trophy ‘home’ in the most legendary way, defeating Germany 2-1 in extra time, there was a Pakistani women footballer present in the country, Rukhsar Rashid, who was soaking it all in during the marquee event.
Rukhsar, a former player who had to give up on her dream to play for the country due to the injury, feels that her stint as a volunteer at Euro 2022 has paved the way for her to be in a position of acquiring the UEFA License C. She feels women’s Euros was just the event to embark on this journey.
Rukhsar has been playing and coaching at Pakistan’s first women's football club Diya FC since she was very young, however, this year she felt she needed to put her savings into here passion.
She hopes her attendance at women’s Euros will open doors for others in the future to experience professional management and football in mega events like women’s Euros.
“Just getting here was very tough for me. Bearing all of my expenses I had to put in all my savings into this, because I wanted to move forward and staying back in Pakistan is not the answer. Women’s Euros was just that opportunity,” Rukhsar told The Express Tribune, right after the women’s Euros ended, and so did her volunteering duty at the event.
“I really wanted to be here and this was something I had been planning for a very long time. I bore all the expenses, basically all of my saving because this was necessary. I had applied for the volunteering job months ago and I got selected on the basis of my résumé.
She took a brave risk as football is her calling and while pursuing her life-long journey to learn and expand on her skills, she said that her hope is to bring everything she learns from this experience back to Pakistan, along with coach’s training at the Manchester International Football Academy and also her training at Tiki Taka Football Academy.
She said that she began looking for these opportunities during the pandemic, which had made an already gloomy women’s football situation in Pakistan even worse.
Pakistan women’s team last played an international event in 2014 and after eight years, they will be now be playing in September in Nepal at the Saff Championship.
Meanwhile, there had not been any domestic league for the women besides the national championship.
“There was a lot of uncertainty and I really wanted to do something creative, something that can help me further my learning graph at football,” she said, adding she felt suffocated with no growth and zero opportunities as the Pakistan Football Federation has been highly politicised and never worked on grassroots development for men and women’s game.
“I started to get in touch with different academies and Manchester International Football Academy really opened their arms to this. The people here in the UK are very supportive. I found out that on July 4, when I landed for the Euros that I am the only Asian who was a part of the event.
“The risk paid off because before coming here I didn’t know what more can I do. All the places I applied to asked me to come here first. But now I have EE Playmaker certificate by England Football and this was the first step.
“Next for me is the Introduction to Football online course that will be in September and then I will be going for my UEFA License C certification,” explained Rukhsar.
She already had Asian Football Confederation (AFC) License C and Futsal certification as a coach, but she admitted that the AFC License did not hold any weight anywhere else in the world.
“I could see that we don’t know so much. In Pakistan and even with the AFC license they only teach us basics. Even at the national camp in Pakistan, girls still learn how to pass and stop the ball. I can really see how far behind we are.
“My next step is to get a UEFA certification. I’ll have to come back to England after I leave on August 15. Later the Manchester International Football Academy have agreed to let me complete my License C course and certification with them. That will be an almost six moth process,” said Rukhsar.
She said that her aim is to transmit the knowledge as Pakistan lags behind in even the basic coach-player relationship training, while the gap in technical, tactical and analytical side of the sport is huge between the European countries and Pakistan.
“I was blown away by the level of football I saw at the women’s Euros. Even the fans we interacted with during my duties at ticketing, ground and other places had a different mindset.
“They start their children very young, while in Pakistan we still work on basics in our late teens. The most important part is to be the friend, mentor and even a parent to the children who wants to play.
“In Pakistan it is essential for a coach to be trustworthy and understand a child's psyche to help them grow and learn through sport, so that is my focus. I want to serve my country the best I can through this,” said Rukhsar.
Rukhsar is passionate about learning and teaching at the same time. Her message is simple: “Don't give up on learning and growing. That journey should continue. Don’t give up after earning a degree or a certification. Carry on and that will take you to places. I also want to thank my mentor [Diya FC founder Sadia Sheikh] who gave me the confidence and platform to go ahead. The key is to never stop learning and finding opportunities for oneself.”