‘On to the next one,’ says Pakistan’s three-time world record holding footballer

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Hajra Khan, Pakistan's Football Team Captain, after an Equal Playing Field (ELF) football match in Lyon, France, where she bagged her second and third world record. July 1st, 2019 (Photo by ELF)
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A photo of participating players after the world’s longest football match ever played in Lyon, France, and the football game with most nationalities participating. July 1st, 2019 (Photo by ELF)
Updated 01 August 2019
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‘On to the next one,’ says Pakistan’s three-time world record holding footballer

  • Hajra Khan, Pakistan’s women football team captain, says her world records give hope to aspiring Pakistani athletes
  • Khan is the only Pakistani to hold three sporting world records

Islamabad, July 29th, 2019 — Hajra Khan, Pakistan’s women’s football team captain has already made history in Pakistan by holding not one, not two, but three Guinness World Records, and has her eyes set firmly on the next one. 
Originally from Karachi, Khan began playing football in her early teens and was selected for the national football team in 2009. In 2014, she became women’s team captain. 
“Growing up I didn’t really think I would win any world records,” Hajra Khan, 25, told Arab News. “Playing in the world cup, wasn’t a possibility because of the condition of football in Pakistan — it’s not a very athlete-friendly country.”
Khan said a world record wasn’t on the cards when she was still dreaming of a professional career in football. She had four aims when she decided to pursue it seriously, she said; to be the best player in the country, to play on the national team, to become team captain and to play in Europe.
But she is humbled she said, to now have three sporting world records under her belt.
“It’s an absolute honor more than anything so far,” Khan told Arab News.
Khan’s first world record was won in Jordan last year for scoring a goal in the lowest altitude football match ever played in the world. 
“We hiked around Jordan for 90 km, camping in deserts and cities, and ending our trek at the Dead Sea, which is the lowest level on earth... 340 meters below sea level,” she said, and added, “I scored for the winning team and that was the first world record I accomplished.”
The achievement reinvigorated the star football player with an energy that had been wavering after years of witnessing the faltering state of women’s football in the country. A lack of funding, management and infrastructure kept the sport from growing, and development had remained dormant for half a decade.
“I didn’t have a lot of hope for football in Pakistan, but (the first world record) woke up a lot of passion that I had for personal development,” Khan told Arab News. “I was ready to take on the world...my confidence was sky- high.”
And the community of fellow sporting world record-holders into which she is now inducted, she said, is tight-knit and as passionate about setting new records.
“It is such a tight community of players from across the world, we are always talking about the next world record we are going to break,” Khan said.
Her next two world records came simultaneously late last month in France.
In a 69 hour long, five-a-side match with the Equal Playing Field (ELF) initiative which began on June 28th and ended July 1st in Lyon, going on for almost three straight days, Khan unlocked world records for the longest running football game ever played to date, and for playing a football game with the highest number of nationalities participating. 
ELF is a non-profit organization in France looking to promote female participation in soccer, and registration for the multi-nationality game was open to players from across the globe.
“On to the next one,” Khan said, but did not divulge what she was planning. She added, “I’ll probably...be the only Pakistani playing that world record.”
Beyond being a personal achievement for her, Khan said, her world records are paving hope that athleticism in Pakistan, a Muslim majority country of 208 million people, will be more encouraged especially for women.
The Pakistan’s women cricket team has been steadily developing over the last few years and has gained international recognition in countless world events. In May this year, Sana Mir, captain of the Pakistan women’s cricket team, became the world’s most successful women’s One Day International spinner.
Khan said she was hoping women on the football field would also come out and “play openly.”
“Every game I play, every world record I set... it’s an effort to make it easier for the youth, for the generation coming after me or getting into sports at all,” Khan said, and added, “I want girls to come on the field and play openly. I want...parents to accept their girls...to get out because these world records are a shout-out for gender equality especially in sports.” 
“A lot of people have reached out to me (to) let me know they are letting their daughters play,” she continued. “Which is a win for me and that’s what I do it for.” 


India defends blocking politicians from visiting Kashmir

Updated 25 August 2019
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India defends blocking politicians from visiting Kashmir

  • If everything is normal, asks opposition’s Rahul Gandhi, why are Congress leaders not allowed in Jammu and Kashmir
  • Hurriyat Conference has released its first official comment since the clampdown, calling for locals to resist New Delhi’s move 

NEW DELHI: Authorities on Sunday defended blocking opposition Indian politicians from visiting Muslim-majority Kashmir, saying it was to “avoid controversy” weeks after stripping the restive region of its autonomy and imposing a major clampdown.
India’s Hindu-nationalist government has been criticized by the main opposition Congress party over the contentious move on August 5 that brings Kashmir — which has waged an armed rebellion against Indian control since 1989 — under its direct rule.
The region remains under strict lockdown with movement limited and many phone and Internet services cut, although authorities say they have been easing restrictions gradually.
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, still a key figure in India as a scion of the powerful Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, was earlier invited by local governor Satya Pal Malik to visit Kashmir.
But a video released by Congress showed Gandhi questioning officials about why he was stopped from entering Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar at the airport on Saturday.
“The governor has said I’m invited. He has invited me so I have come but you’re saying I can’t go,” he said.
“And the government is saying everything is OK, everything is normal. So if everything is normal, why are we not allowed out? It is a bit surprising.”
Regional police chief Dilbagh Singh told AFP police supported the decision.
“In an environment that is getting to normalcy, we didn’t want any controversial statement from anyone. That’s why they were asked to return from the airport itself,” Singh said.
Malik told the ANI news agency he invited Gandhi out of goodwill but that he then politicized the issue.
The controversy came as key separatist group Hurriyat Conference, a coalition of local political parties, released its first official comments since the clampdown and called for locals to “resist at this critical juncture” New Delhi’s move.
“Each and every person must face the naked Indian brutality with courage ... People should organize peaceful protests and demonstrations in their areas of residence,” top separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani said in a statement obtained by AFP.
The Hurriyat Conference, which supports Kashmir’s right to choose whether it wants to be part of India or Pakistan, added that Pakistan and the wider Muslim community should “come forward to ... help the besieged people.”
The call came as India’s home affairs ministry refuted a report by India’s News18 television on Sunday that the region was running out of lifesaving medicines, saying supplies were “slightly higher than the monthly average.”