November 30, 2023

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Makhlio Sarikova: “I hope our academy will inspire others in Uzbekistan”

Makhlio Sarikova: “I hope our academy will inspire others in Uzbekistan”

The Uzbek international plays for PFC Sevench. The striker recently opened a girls’ soccer academy in Karshi to create more opportunities for female soccer players in her country.

Bar Makhlio Sarikova

I like footbal. This is my ambition. When I played in the Champions League a few years ago, I knew I had to make women’s football in Uzbekistan more popular, and try to increase the number of women footballers in the country. She dreamed of giving young girls the opportunity to shine on the biggest stage.

When you play at a professional level, you see that girls don’t have the same conditions or opportunities as boys. Women’s football faces many problems in my country. The main reason is lack of infrastructure. Only three clubs have good facilities and can pay good salaries.

There are many reasons why women’s football is not a priority in Uzbekistan. One of them is our culture: the majority of the population is Muslim and lives according to the provisions of their religion. Usually, girls and women stay at home and take care of their family above all else. Moreover, girls get married at a very young age. For example, at 18 or 19 years old. If they play a sport, it is usually gymnastics or ballet. This is why there is no real rush to invest in women’s football.

I have played in Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates. I was lucky. It’s different for young girls who are starting to play. If they are not lucky, they will stay in Uzbekistan, where women’s football is not taken seriously.

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I was talking about these problems, but nothing changed at all. This was the main reason behind establishing the academy. At the beginning of this year, I discussed the idea with our Football Association Director. In the past two years, more attention has been given to the development of women’s football, although this alone is not sufficient to achieve all the goals. We need a collective effort. After meeting with the Union, the idea was presented to the club. We decided together that we had to open the academy.