Interview: Aisha Ahmad
Last month we brought you the first part of our special feature on British Asian women in football. We spoke to photographer Jaskirt Dhaliwal who revealed what led her to the football lens and why she believed generational attitudes within her community were changing towards the inclusion of British Asian women in football.
In Part 2 of our feature we talk to two British Asian players, Aisha Ahmad and Ayesha Abdeen who both represented Britain in Iran’s 2005 Women’s Islamic Games for the British Muslim Women’s Futsal team.
Aisha Ahmad, football player for the British Muslim Women’s Football team.
“Just being at the international games in Iran brought my identity to the surface, being a ‘British Muslim’, which is who I am.”
When Birmingham-based Aisha Ahmad responded to an advert looking for aspiring female Muslim footballers she never imagined she’s be representing her country in Iran at the Women’s Islamic Games. For Aisha representing her country is about her identity as a British Muslim, it’s about doing something she enjoys whilst proudly proclaiming she’s as British as David Beckham. Here she reveals what led her to the game and how the profile of women’s football should be enhanced.
How did you get involved in the team?
I initially heard about the team from an article in The Muslim News calling for participants to compete in the women’s Islamic Games in 2005. This fuelled my interests and I began researching the team. I responded to the advert and after trails I was selected as a member of the squad. I’m currently reading towards a PhD at the University of Birmingham and my research concentrates on the British women’s football team and other Muslim women that competed in the games in Iran.
What reaction do you get when you mention you’re a member of the team?
What reaction do I get? Well, typically it consists of dropped jaws and being speechless – which I find quite funny – it’s not that unusual! After a few minutes though, I usually get praised and congratulated on my perseverance on doing something that I enjoy. Only on one occasion did I get a negative response – ‘women playing football isn’t Islamic’!!!
Do you have a sense of pride as a British Muslim to be playing for your national team?
I certainly do. I am proud to be able to play for my country and being a member of the squad. It’s great that Muslim women can represent their country doing the things that they love. It’s everything that an athlete aspires to be. Just being at the international games in Iran brought my identity to the surface, being a ‘British Muslim’, which is who I am.
Women’s football is still miles behind in comparison to men’s football in the UK. In what ways can the profile of the women’s game be enhanced?
It’s a shame but it’s true. I think the way forward for women’s football is through greater participation, which would lead to more funding. I mean women’s football is going down because of the lack of sponsorship. If more women played football then this would increase the amount of funding we get. I think football should be introduced to girls in both primary and secondary school where clubs are set up. This would give girls the opportunity to enjoy the game from a young age and excel at a higher level after school.
What are your future plans as part of the British women’s football team?
I would still love to play as part of the team in the next Women’s Islamic Games, which is in 2009. Up till then I will be training hard with the squad and looking for more Muslim women to compete in football. So for all you Muslim women out there who enjoy football – there are opportunities to play!
Interview: Ayesha Abdeen
In Part 3 of British Asian Women in Football…
We speak to Rimla Akhtar, the woman behind the Muslim Women’s Sports Foundation
Coming soon on www.theasiantoday.com and available in the May issue of The Asian Today