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Last Updated: Friday, 30 September 2005, 13:46 GMT 14:46 UK
Pakistan women in soccer punch-up
Women's football match in Islamabad
There were a number of scuffles over the penalty kick
Pakistan's women footballers, used to battling hardline Islamists opposed to their activity, ended up fighting themselves in a landmark final.

A mass brawl broke out after the award of a penalty in the first final of the National Women's Football Championship in Islamabad's Jinnah Stadium.

The soccer federation dismissed the incident as a "football flare-up".

Women's sport has been in the spotlight since Islamic hardliners attacked runners in a mixed-sex race in April.

Early whistle

The football final was played between Punjab province and Wapda (Water and Power Development Authority) on Thursday.

The penalty led to the solitary goal in the game for Punjab.

Police break up Lahore race
Police broke up a mixed-sex road race in Lahore in May

A Pakistan Football Federation spokesman told the AFP news agency: "Wapda goalie Azra Matloob stopped the penalty kick and Sheka Nazeer scored off the rebound, but since Azra got injured the Wapda players were furious."

There was a long delay before the match could be restarted with the Wapda players reportedly threatening to walk off.

Pakistan's Daily Times said play resumed after Pakistan Sports Board director general Arif Mehmud Siddique intervened.

But the referee blew the whistle a few minutes early as tempers flared again.

The Daily Times said there was another scuffle after the game as Punjab celebrated.

"The girls of both teams freely kicked and punched each other. The catfight forced the tournament organisers to enter the ground and put an end to the brawl," it reported.

The federation dismissed the incident as a "football flare-up" and said there would be no inquiry but images of the scuffles were widely covered in the local press.

The women players were fully covered to avoid offending Muslim sensibilities and no male spectators were allowed.

The issue of women in sports flared in April when hardliners attacked runners in a mixed-sex race in Gujranwala.

A ban on such races was introduced and police in Lahore used force in May to break up a race.

A week later hundreds of rights activists held a mixed-sex race in the city in protest at the ban.

In India, Muslim tennis player Sania Mirza has also come under fire from some Islamists opposed to her tennis wear.



SEE ALSO
Women defy Pakistan road race ban
21 May 05 |  South Asia
Pakistan's Islamists focus on women
14 Apr 05 |  South Asia
Clashes over Pakistan road race
03 Apr 05 |  South Asia
Protection for Indian tennis star
17 Sep 05 |  South Asia
The girl who is breaking barriers
09 Feb 05 |  South Asia

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