RIP Shahlyla Ahmadzai Baloch, the shining pearl of Balochistan
In a country where you would be hard pressed to find men footballers who ply their trade in a foreign league, I was actually quite surprised when I was first told of Shahlyla Baloch. A woman soccer player who hailed from Balochistan, demonstrating her skills in Maldives. Boy, was I impressed!
My astonishment didn’t just stop here; news came in that Shahlyla then went on to grab herself a hat-trick during her stint in Maldives. Woah, this girl is going places.
Unfortunately, this precocious talent is no more amongst us. Shahlyla Ahmadzai Baloch died in a car crash in Karachi late Wednesday night.
According to close family sources, Baloch was sitting in the passenger seat when the car struck against a pole in Karachi’s DHA Phase VIII area. Her body will be taken to Kalat for burial.
Shahlyla had a rich footballing pedigree. Born in 1996, the 20-year-old played for the Balochistan United FC as a forward on the domestic front. Her older sister, Raheela Zarmeen, also a former player is now associated with the national women football team as a manager. Their mother, Senator Rubina Irfan, has been the chairperson of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Women’s Wing.
Shahlyla started playing football at the tender age of seven and immediately received FIFA’s youngest player award. Ever since then, she did not back down. Winning the best player trophy thrice (2009, 2011 and 2013), she was simply a phenomenon.
Tariq Lutfi, a former coach, in his condolence message said,
“Shahlyla was the best female football player Pakistan has ever produced and her death was a great loss to Pakistan women’s football.”
Playing as a striker, Baloch was the heartbeat of the Pakistan women’s football team. She represented the country at the South Asian Football Federation Women Football Championship 2014 in Islamabad, which was the last international event that the Pakistan women’s team competed in.
Balochistan has been a victim of violence for decades and with the on-going tension due to the separatist movements going on in the province, the Baloch are very much isolated from rest of the country on multiple fronts but Shahlyla as a sporting icon was a beacon of hope, not just for her state but the country as a whole.
In a time when Pakistan faces a variety of challenges, Shahlyla along with all the women athletes across the nation had made laudable efforts to help Pakistan do away with the negative impression.
With Lionel Messi as her soccer idol, she herself was a role model to many. Despite numerous social and financial obstacles, the prodigy from Balochistan took the game with pride, performed it with passion and as a result spread it to the areas where tribal and gender insecurity gave women no space to thrive. Shahlyla touched so many people’s lives and despite her untimely death she will never be forgotten.
RIP Shahlyla Ahmadzai Baloch.
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