Zest for women’s soccer grows in Middle East despite conservative opposition
KARACHI, Pakistan — The idea has a name: Z-League, a cross between the English Premier League and minor league soccer. Z-League teams are the only professional teams in Pakistan’s second-tier league, the Sindh Premier League, but Pakistan’s conservative clerics don’t want anyone to play it in the name of God.
Z-League is a growing sport in Pakistan, although there are concerns that it could attract big-name international teams to Pakistan.
“Z-League is a beautiful game which requires time and effort,” said Nida Jedda, a coach at a sports college in Lahore. “It can be played by anyone.”
A majority of Z-League games are played on a Saturday night by teams from Karachi, Lahore, Lahore’s twin city of Multan and Peshawar where a Z-League team is also playing. At the end of the season the team with the fewest points is usually eliminated and a new season begins.
The teams play on three fields, with an average age of about 12 years. Most of the players are 14 to 19 years old.
“The sport is played only at night and at weekends and at weddings,” said Abdul Wali Khan, a 25 year old, who plays for Islamabad Z-League team. “The stadium is crowded, there are sometimes as many as 50 spectators.”
The game looks like soccer, with two teams lined up at the back and four at the front.
The Z-League teams play at parks in Karachi, Lahore and Lahore’s twin city of Multan.
“No one has ever tried to stop a game and there are no restrictions on how many times the game can be played,” said Khadija N