THE BLOG

Muslim, Pakistani, Sportswoman, Leader, Student and Extremely Employable!

06/08/2013 14:26 BST | Updated 05/10/2013 10:12 BST

How many women rugby players can you name? How many women footballers can you say are influential roles models? Furthermore how many of these women are Asian? They exist, the problem is we are not aware of them.

Saddiqa Shan is a 21 year old Muslim footballer who's been playing since she was just 6 years old. Since attending a Sporting Pathways event, Saddi has been keen on promoting wider participation and encouraging more young Asian women to play sport. Sporting Pathways is an organisation that encourages women and disabled players to excel in sport.

Being nominated for the Asian Football Awards 2013 is one of Saddi's proudest moments. She is far from short of achievements. Another moment Saddi highlighted as one of her proudest was her team (Solihull Ladies FC) winning promotion and being crowned champions of the league last season, after a four year long campaign to accomplish this.

Saddi is Solihull FC's first Asian player. A touching moment of my interview with Saddi was the moment she mentioned how much it meant to her having her family came to watch her play at Coventry's Ricoh Arena. "For them to share that experience with me is something that will stay with me forever" she said.

It's no secret that Asian women face a tough time engaging in sport. For some, the problems can be with sports clubs themselves reluctant to take on an Asian woman due to preconceptions that she may be forced to pull out due to cultural pressure. For others the problem can be the cultural stigma attached to playing sport. But why does this stigma exist?

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The concept of women staying indoors rather than sport is one that still sadly exists for some women. But in times where thinking has shifted ahead to times where Asian women are encouraged to achieve highly in education, go out, develop independence and live successfully, they are still not encouraged to play sport.

Sport is simply not valued alongside academia. The career-enhancing skills developed through sport are not realised. British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) launched employability research at this year's annual conference in Edinburgh.

Supply and demand show that a degree is not enough for graduates to gain the highest quality jobs. Team work, leadership, organisation, time-management, confidence and communication are skills employers look for - all of which can be gained and developed through playing sport. Those especially in leadership roles in team sports are likely to benefit. Average salaries of graduates who engaged with sports at university tends to be higher than other graduates the research showed.

Entering her final year of studying physiotherapy at Coventry University, Saddi manages to play football regularly- approximately six times a week. Saddi says: "The level of self discipline, dedication and passion required to pursue and persist in sport have proved to be invaluable. Through playing I've learnt the value of team work and respect for those around you. It has also given me the confidence to voice and express myself better."

Proving to be an excellent sportswoman and a student of physiotherapy, Saddi is an example of a true leader. To all those contemplating getting involved Saddi says sport is a "journey that opens up your eyes to a whole new world that you haven't yet been able to experience, the start of a journey that will help you learn things about yourself. You have nothing to lose"

Unfortunately, alongside the lack of recognition for achievement and development within sport, there is also a severe lack of coverage of women in sport generally. Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation found that only 5% of sports coverage in print media (magazines and newspapers) is given to women.

Without recognition and coverage, it becomes more difficult for young women to witness the journey of leaders like Saddi and aspire to take part in sport.

I hope this article has helped show the significant positive impact sport can have on lives, and more so the importance to have everyone taking part and their achievements recognised. Sporting Pathways and Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation are examples of organisations encouraging more participation and the Asian Football Awards play a key role of providing recognition. Hopefully, the next time you're asked to name Asian female role models in football, rugby, swimming, cycling or any sport, you'll be spoilt for choice!