THE “Bend it like Beckham” moments have become a reality for 19 year old footballer Aminah Din.
Asian women playing professional sports are looked down upon by a typical traditional Asian society but not looked up to enough by sporting professionals. Jasmine Patel went to find out how the Ronaldo-inspired footballer tackled some of the biggest issues Asians face in the sporting world.
“In high school, I was the only girl on the football team and they started bullying me at first. They treated me like an outcast as though I couldn’t play as well as them because I’m Pakistani. They became aggressive and very violent towards me. Once they realised I can play just as well as them, they soon started to back down.”
The journey began for the Glasgow-based player at the age of seven after she participated in summer camps. Her passion developed as she became competitive at home with her brother.
“It was hard to watch matches on TV, watching everybody else play, watching my brother go off to play whilst I was stuck at home.
“I felt my talents were being wasted. I thought, the one thing I love doing, I wouldn’t be able to do it anywhere because I’m a girl and I’m Muslim and I don’t have them opportunities.”
“The only place I had was the walls in my own home. The main difficulty was trying to get out there and finding somewhere to play.”
SEMSA's Women's Sports Development Officer Jaz Sandhu gave the student her break, through the Scottish Women's Active Pathways (SWAP) project. It was created for all ethnic minorities to attend and get involved in sport, starting with football.
“I started at the age of eight. It was for older girls but I was always lying about my age to get in. Thanks to Jaz, I can play weekly now.”
The professionally trained SFA (Scottish Football Association) coach has also taken accounting at university as a back-up to her future career and following some backlash from the Asian society.
“Some people have had their own opinions that studying is more important than playing.”
For beginners who are still fighting to break the Asian stereotypes at home, Din strongly advises that parents should attend and watch the matches.
“My mum and dad didn’t know what I was capable of for ten years until they saw me play for the first time.”
As kicking a ball becomes tolerable in Asian society, it is still a challenge to break the barriers on the pitch.
“It’s rare that girls play but it’s a new concept for others to accept for an Asian girl to play football.”
“I trialled for the Rangers girls team and I was the only Asian there.
“Everyone looked at me because I’m not one of them. Sometimes it’s hard to show them that my skin colour doesn’t affect my skills. I’m just as good as any other player.”
The recognition started two years ago when she became the most valuable player at a tournament in England.
Din has recently been awarded ‘Role Model of the year’ at the Scottish women in sports awards after gaining the title Scottish Asian Sports women of the year previously.
“There are no other professional Asian women so to break that barrier is an achievement.”
Asian women playing sports is becoming more important than ever before as the interest expands in this minority ethnic group.
“It’s not a big thing so it’s important to show society that Asians are also capable and that there is talent out there which should be recognised because if it doesn’t then we’ll never be seen and nobody else can break that barrier.”
“It gives this particular sub-group a boost and we can be recognised for the great things we can do!”