Growing up in Bangladesh, football was essential watching, especially during World Cup season. A saying goes that Bangladeshis fell in love with football but were forced to marry cricket. However, while there was a lot of fervour about the game itself, there was very little opportunity for one to try their hand at playing - especially if they were female.
I focused on my academic career and have gained success. After moving to the UK, I took the opportunity offered by the FA to do the Level 1 coaching certificate. It was my first attempt at trying to forge a career in something that I had missed.
It felt a bit alien to begin with. My fellow coursemates all had much more experience than myself. Moreover, they played football too. However, I diligently put in my time and worked through to complete the training.
However, many barriers lay in the way. As I looked for a team to join, the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the UK. But I was not one to give up. As soon as football was allowed to resume I joined as an Assistant Coach to David Burkett at Cottenham United Colts U-16 girls. There was nervousness and unease due to the novelty of it. However, David has been an excellent mentor and has helped me ease into the role. He recognized my lack of previous experience and has lent a helping hand in getting my footing. I am now being encouraged to plan and prepare my own training drills. Unfortunately, the learning had to stop again as the pandemic stopped football a second time.
As a Muslim woman of South Asian descent, I am one of a very few to have taken up football coaching. Enthusiastic about the job, I hope that many more follow. 'Football brings people together, and in an increasingly fractured world, it might help us find unity where there is division.'
“It has been a pleasure to welcome Tahira to our wonderful group of U16 girls. As a club, Cottenham United Colts FC currently have no other female coaches. This has been an ideal opportunity for us as a forward thinking, positive and open club, to help to inspire the next generation of female players and coaches. Tahira has really bought into our team ethic with a real enthusiasm and such commitment and it is always useful to have the opinion and eyes of others. Despite the pandemics best attempts we look forward to continuing this journey together” – David Burkett