While the resurgence of the Montreal Alouettes in 1996 helped bring football back into the general sporting conversation of the hockey-mad city, it would take significantly longer for women’s football to make its mark. Leading the way was Montreal Blitz quarterback Saadia Ashraf.
Born in 1975, Ashraf began competing on the gridiron at 18 years of age. With more than half of her life devoted to the game of football, her rise to the Blitz was a gradual one. Like many other players, the beginning was defined by stints in touch and flag football. The Montreal Warriors, another team she founded, still exists today. In addition, Ashraf is also dedicated to provide quality coaching to girls at the high school level. Employed as a school teacher, her patience and leadership skills make her an ideal coach.
As the pivot for the only internationally based team in the Independent Women’s Football League, it has been a journey filled with several ups and downs. Complemented by the opportunity to compete with other ambitious women looking to make their mark on the gridiron, they have helped put the Montreal Blitz on the map.
Of note, Ashraf was one of 11 women named to compete on the Canadian contingent that participated at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds in Vantaa, Finland. She was also the quarterback for Canada at the first-ever Women’s Worlds, held in 2010 in Sweden. Both times, Ashraf settled for a silver medal. One consolation occurred in 2010 when Ashraf and Tea Tormanen of Finland were named as representatives for the International Federation of American Football Athletes Commission.
For Ahsraf and her Blitz teammates, they have made as big an impact in the domain of Montreal women’s sports like the multiple Clarkson Cup champion Montreal Stars of the CWHL. With Ashraf pulling double duty as team president of the Blitz (she would purchase the team in 2004), she helped the Blitz make history by competing in the 2012 IWFL World Championship Game in Rolling Rock, Texas.
Competing against the Sacramento Sirens, it brought her back against a familiar rival, Julie Shockley. A member of the US team in 2010, Shockley came out of retirement in 2012 with the Sirens in order to coach and provide punting duties. She would run for two touchdowns while catching a pair of passes in what would prove to be her final football game as Montreal prevailed on three Ashraf TD passes for a hard fought 28-27 win.
In the last five seasons, Ashraf has been at the helm for a Blitz squad that has accumulated a sparkling 66-23 record for a .741 winning percentage. With two IFAF silver medals, IWFL championships at the Tier-I (2012) and Tier-II (2013) levels, Ashraf is a worthy candidate for the Canada Sports Hall of Fame. Similar to Liz Breton, the founder and captain of the Montreal Stars, Ashraf is more than just a leader and an elite athlete, but a builder for women’s sport.