By Shaista Gohir OBE

I would like to congratulate Englandís Lionesses on their ground-breaking achievement of winning Euro 2022. They have inspired women and girls across different communities. Many young Muslim girls too are now more likely to take up football. Even though the Englandís squad lacks diversity, the attention on womenís football now presents an opportunity to improve access to training and opportunities to under-represented communities to pursue football whether for leisure or professionally.

Being involved in football does not have just have to be about playing the game, some Muslim women want to be football coaches and referees.

I look forward to seeing Muslim women in the England womenís squad in the future. However, investment will be required to develop their talent. Muslim women and girls are already interested in football. The London based Muslimah Sports Association provides a safe and positive environment so that girls and women can participate in a number of different sports including football. In 2018, Yasmin Abdullahi set the Muslim womenís football team, Sisterhood FC, which she formed while at university. She now hopes to expand her franchise around London. Earlier this year a group of Muslim women in Birmingham set up their own five a side football team, known as ĎSaltley Womensí. They are now hoping to expand the team to 11 side later this year.

However, for such initiative are to be a success, funding needs to be made available for them to pay for coaching, hiring spaces to train and play, travel and football kits and boots. Being involved in football does not have just have to be about playing the game, some Muslim women want to be football coaches and referees. Annie Zaidi, who is of Pakistani heritage, was the first Muslim woman to be awarded the level two coaching badge from the Football Association and has coached a number of womenís football teams. Iqra Ismail, who was born and raised in Britain, has played in the national Somalia womenís team and is now a football coach. Another British Somali woman, Jawahir Roble, is the first Muslim female qualified football referee. She was born in Somalia and came to the UK when she was 10 years old.

Now that Englandís win is likely to mean more girls playing football, it is important to ensure there is no class ceiling with only girls from the most privileged backgrounds getting through the system.

Attitudes within diaspora Muslim Community are also a barrier to participation. Some parents, families and faith leaders believe that it is not acceptable for women and girls to participate publicly in exercise or sport even though many Muslim countries are investing in womenís sports. Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and UAE amongst many of the countries that have national womenís football teams. Even Afghanistan had a national squad before the country fell to the Taliban again. Such examples could be used to change perceptions.

Itís not just the attitudes of families that need to be changed because inequalities in womenís football start at school. Only 44 per cent of secondary schools in England offer girls equal access to football in PE lessons. This figure may well be lower in the most deprived areas and at schools where there are is a large number of minority ethnic pupils. There may be a stereotype that girls from certain communities are not interested in football. Now that Englandís win is likely to mean more girls playing football, it is important to ensure there is no class ceiling with only girls from the most privileged backgrounds getting through the system. This beautiful game is for everyone including Muslim women and girls, but they need to be supported in their football journeys with opportunities, coaching and bursaries.


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