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By ESPN Staff
Sep 22, 2005

Pakistani women play soccer under wraps

KARACHI, Pakistan -- Pakistani women will play their first ever national soccer championship from Friday under strictly segregated conditions to avoid offending religious and social sentiments in the conservative Muslim country.

No unaccompanied men will be allowed into the stadium in Islamabad to watch the six-day competition between eight teams, though one male coach per team will be permitted.

The women will be required to play in baggy trousers and long sleeved shirts.

"It is a big step forward for Pakistani women's sports but we obviously have to adhere to our religious, cultural and social norms," a top official of the Pakistan Football Federation said.

Mujahiddullah Khan Tareen said it was a mandatory condition of the sport's world governing body FIFA to promote women's football.

"We also feel women need to be given a chance to play in the world's most popular sport," he said.

The PFF receives an annual grant of $250,000 from FIFA and has to spend 10 percent of it on women's football

Although Pakistani women regularly participate in sporting events at national and international levels, they generally find it difficult to take up sport as a career or achieve excellence due to social and religious taboos.

Pakistani women have gone to Iran to take part in the Islamic Games and a cricket series with India will be held this month.

Islamists attacked runners in a mixed marathon race in the central city of Gujranwala in April and it took two attempts and government intervention before another race was held in Lahore a couple of months later.

Pakistan's men's national soccer team is 169 in the latest FIFA world rankings.