She was born in South Waziristan, which even before being hijacked by militants, was home to a backward, tribal and ultra-conservative mindset.
By Raza Dotani
Digital Media Manager
May 5, 2014
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“In the final of the Nash Cup 2013 vs Milou van der Heijden from Netherlands tomorrow at 8 pm . I had some great matches this week. Winning tomorrow will make my day as it is my comeback after a long break. Excited!”

These were the words of a girl who has always risked her life and pursued her goals at all costs. She is Maria Toorpakai Wazir – a very young Pakistani girl with a very brave heart.

Maria uttered these words a day before she won the first ever women’s squash event in the Nash Cup 2013 by 13-11, 11-3, 11-9in Canada. This was the third title that this courageous girl won in her Women’s Squash Association (WSA) career after her win in the Southwest Squash Open and the Liberty Bell Open last year in the US.

The Nash Cup website stated,
“The first ever Nash Cup WSA finals between Milou Van Der Heijhden and Maria Toorpakai Wazir. This was an exciting game and the score does not really do it justice. Maria ended up winning 3-0 to become our first champion.”

This is a girl who has been far away from her family since 2011 because her dreams were too big for the conservative environment of her native Waziristan. She was born in South Waziristan, which even before being hijacked by militants, was home to a backward, tribal and ultra-conservative mindset. Education for girls was considered a big no-no and a woman participating in sports was almost unheard of.

During this time, however, Maria realized that she had a choice. She could either stifle her dreams or live with her family or she would have to leave her family and pursue her dreams outside Pakistan. She began to email academies, trainers and universities abroad for help. But she received no reply for four years.

Then, in 2010 Jonathan Powers, world squash champion, contacted her with an offer to train with him in Canada. Even though it was all that she had ever wanted, it took Maria and her family eight months to finally agree to his offer and she arrived in Toronto in March 2011.

Powers says,
“She came here with a one-way ticket, 200 bucks in her pocket and a promise from me to train and become a world champion. When I asked her if she was willing to remain in Canada until she became world champion, she replied, ‘Inshallah,’ meaning ‘God willing’.”

Today she is far away from her family but has managed to achieve her goal of becoming the world’s No. 1 squash player. About winning the Nash Cup, she said,

“When I win a tournament, I feel like I am moving forwards towards my goals. So winning today means a lot to me.”

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