Palwashi Aslami is the assistant coach of the Alamein FC U12s. While on first glance this may seem unremarkable, but Palwashi’s journey to Australia and her involvement in soccer coaching is an extraordinary story of triumph over adversity, daring to push cultural boundaries and a passion for the “Beautiful Game”.
Palwashi was born in Kabul Afghanistan in 1982 during the Soviet occupation. Conditions in Kabul later became increasingly unsafe as the anti-Soviet forces gained ground around the country. Following numerous threatening visits from the Taliban, Palwashi’s father decided to leave the country. Only after a long and treacherous journey on foot and by truck to Iran, with only the clothes on their back, the family finally felt safe.
Living in Iran, whilst free from the terror in Afghanistan, did not prove ideal. The family did not speak Persian (Farsi), and the girls in the family we not allowed to attend school. Palwashi’s father had a firm belief that his daughters should have the same educational opportunities as his sons and so after one year, the family sought visas from Zimbabwe and eventually settled there.
The family spent 11 years in Zimbabwe, and Palwashi’s father set up a successful business. Palwashi and her brothers and sisters all attended school. It was in high school that Palwashi’s passion for soccer began, however this passion had to be hidden from her mother who was totally against girls playing. Palwashi’s situation closely followed that of Jesminder "Jess" Bhamra in the movie “Bend it Like Beckham”. During this period, FIFA representatives came to promote the sport in Zimbabwe and introduced classes and training in schools. Palwashi got involved and in 2003 attended selection trials for the Zimbabwean national team. After a two to three month process she finally received the news that she had been selected. Her first match was against Mozambique and it was televised. Unfortunately, her mother saw her playing and was not very happy! Her father, however, was delighted and was in full support.
Around this time, Zimbabwe was going through a period of heightened political unrest and Palwashi’s father and her brothers started to be harassed and threatened by corrupt police. Once again the family felt the need to move to a safer place where the rule of law was observed. In December 2003 the family moved to Australia.
After a settling in period, Palwashi again felt the draw of soccer. Palwashi subsequently played for Ashburton Women’s Soccer Club in 2005 after being encouraged by Secretary, Michael Gurfinkiel. She was very keen to play and had to ride her bike and take the train to Ashburton for training all the way from Dandenong.
Unfortunately, due to work commitments and her father’s ill health she was later forced to take a break from soccer for several years as she was the principal bread-winner for the family. Then, as her situation improved, a work colleague mentioned a coaching opportunity at Oakleigh. Palwashi took on the role of U9s coach and coached for three years until she was married in 2012. After taking time off when her son was born, Palwashi arrived at Alamein FC, and became assistant coach of the U12s.
Palwashi is now a passionate coach and is determined to create opportunities for girls and young women, especially Muslim girls, to engage with the sport. Palwashi is fully supported by her father and her husband, and is still working on her mother!
She has completed her Junior Soccer Licence, Community Licence and is currently doing her Youth C licence.
Adrian Shaw - 19 March 2018