Nina was getting frustrated. It was her third time doing the drill. She zigzagged through a maze of cones, tapped the ball twice with her foot to set up the shot, and once again sailed it over the goal. The ball rolled to a halt at the far end of pitch. Nina cursed, let out a large groan, and sprinted to retrieve it before getting back in line to try again.
She and the other players of Karachi United (KU) women’s team took a few more shots. (Nina did eventually get one on target, but the keeper saved it.) Then, as the call for evening prayers sounded, the squad took a break. Even in March, Karachi isn’t particularly cold and the air was still warm after the sun went down. The players were training in a renovated residential park in Clifton, a middle class neighborhood close to the sea, which the club rented on a more permanent basis. There was a cluttered little office in one corner, and some club banners strung outside. On the banners was the club crest: a red and black shield with a similarly colored soccer ball at its center and three strips around it, forming a loose triangle. The number 1996 is written at the bottom, the year the men’s club was founded.
The women’s team, however, wasn’t formed until 2010. While the men play professionally, the women’s squad technically isn’t even registered. “We sent out a registration form to the PFF [Pakistan Football Federation, the national soccer association] last year and the year before. We never get confirmation. Just replies of ‘we haven’t received it yet,’” Mashal Hussain, the captain, told me over tea after training.