Montreal Blitz QB, a creator of champions
Published Sunday, May 26, 2013 4:18PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, May 27, 2013 8:29AM EDT
MONTREAL - In the last decade, the Montreal Blitz women’s semi-pro football team has quietly pumped out a gaudy record of 66-23 at last count, hoisting three titles over the last five years.
The Blitz - the only Canadian team in the U.S.-based Independent Women's Football League - has excelled in spite of having a smaller budget and less-impressive talent pool of players than many American opponents.
And a large part of the credit belongs to quarterback Saadia Ashraf, who not only tosses touchdowns but also runs the club.
Ashraf took over the Blitz after the original owner sought to sell in 2004.
She immediately applied her money, time, dedication and passion to bring the team together.
“This is her life,” said receiver Alia Palmer. “Everything she has she puts into this team so it's really, really impressive. I think we should all be thankful because without her the team wouldn't be running.”
Slinging passes for a championship team wasn’t the obvious course for Ashraf, a girl from a Muslim family whose mother banned her from contact sports.
She spent a lot of time hitting tennis balls but the gridiron beckoned.
“I wanted to try out for rugby but my mom said 'no contact sports,' so I did touch football,” said Ashraf.
Moving on to the contact variety didn’t originally put a big smile on her mother’s face.
“She wasn’t’ crazy about the idea but at that point she didn’t really have a say in it, I was in my twenties,” said Ashraf, who is also a school teacher.
Ashraf’s goal isn’t only to win games but to win female adherents to the sport.
“When I took the team over in 2004 I really wanted girls to play football,” she said. “I think it’s the best team sport. I think that when girls play football - flag, touch or tackle - they learn a lot about themselves.”
“They learn that if one person doesn’t do their job, the whole play is messed up for everybody, whether on offence, defence or on special teams.”
Ashraf remains humble about her role and confesses that she’s not the most organized person but she has proven that her dedication and effort can lead a team to a championship, as she recalls from her team’s last title.
“It was almost like shock, joy and then craziness and it was amazing,” she said.