Meet the Match
A Sportswoman and Journalist Raises Her Voice for Girls
From the time she was a girl in Lahore, Pakistan, Rabia Qadir tried her hand at every sport within reach: athletics, volleyball, handball, and eventually field hockey. It was field hockey that really impacted her life. Despite how uncommon it was to see girls outside playing sports, Rabia was relentless and begged her parents to participate.
“My family told me, ‘As long as you’re good in your studies, you can play field hockey. Otherwise, there are no sports for you,’” Rabia says. “That was my only rule. I followed it very strictly!”
Without the support of her parents, Rabia believes it would have been impossible for her to achieve one of the greatest moments of her life when she was called on to play for Pakistan’s national women’s field hockey team in 2003. More than 10 years later, Rabia has won upwards of a dozen gold medals with her various teams and was even invited to coach the country’s under-18 women’s team. In 2012, she was named the country’s best female player by the Pakistan Hockey Federation. She continues to play competitively for both the national team and WAPDA (Water and Power Development Authority).
“I want to become a role model to girls in my society,” Rabia says. “I want teach them how to have confidence and self-respect; to show them that the voices that say they are incapable of playing sports are wrong—they can do anything and they shouldn’t be afraid to try.”
Rabia, who holds master’s degrees in mass communications and sports sciences from the University of the Punjab, balances her field hockey commitments with a job as a sports anchor for WAQT and NEO News. Rabia’s sports anchor positions also allow her fund her work with Galaxy Sports Academy, which she founded in 2011. At the academy, she and two other female coaches train 25 girls from Lahore in field hockey, soccer, and athletics.
Working specifically with girls from disadvantaged backgrounds around the city, Rabia provides uniforms, equipment, food, and pays traveling expenses—all with the hope that the girls will stick with sports and learn the valuable lessons that she gained from field hockey. But, the process has not been easy. Once Rabia even received a threatening letter from members of the local community about the academy.
After suspending practice for three days, Rabia chose to stand strong and continued her work uninterrupted by the naysayers.
“I will change my place of practice,” she says, “but I won’t change the purpose of my life.”
The need for financial resources, equipment, and sports facilities are among the challenges facing Rabia in her efforts with the academy. In a culture that generally holds traditional views of women’s roles, many parents may not recognize the value of allowing their girls to leave the house to play sports.
Through her participation in the U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP), Rabia dreams of expanding on the Galaxy Sports Academy to include a sports school that combines athletic training and education. She wants to use her platforms on television and radio as a way for girls who benefit from her programs to share their experiences and describe why sport is positively impacting their lives.
“I want them to share what sports puts in their hearts,” Rabia says. “To speak freely and to know that no one can harm them or stop them because they have the strength inside them to push ahead.”
In order to accomplish her goals, Rabia can turn to a mentor who can help her to develop and market her program. Diane Lamb, vice president of communications for ESPN, is an ideal mentor for Rabia. Rising through the ranks since she was hired at the company in 1984, Diane has managed communications for Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and ESPN’s corporate citizenship initiatives. She currently oversees a diverse portfolio including day-to-day Disney Investor and Public Relations communications, media relations, executive messaging, and all aspects of ESPN Audio’s growing business. With her considerable experience in the sports world, Diana will be able to provide Rabia with the tools she needs to make a lasting impact in Lahore and throughout Pakistan.