The only way forward is up
Tanaz Mohammed aims to use the experience of being a woman coach for the effective development of communities in the country
In a country where only a few people know that a national women’s football team too exists, Tanaz Mohammed, a grassroots coach Mumbai FC and a coach educator, is moving forward swiftly to break the barriers and build an inclusive football community in India.
Recently Mohammed participated in the week-long course of the Premier Skills, a football-based programme, which is run by the Premier League and the British Council. The event that took place in Navi Mumbai was held in association with the Indian Super League.
Mohammed says that Premier Skills Coach Educators Jez (Jeremy) Weeks and Graham Robinson delivered the sessions which aimed to provide 17 coaches and 30 referees from across India, with the knowledge and skills to run their own training courses within their communities. The great thing about Premier Skills is that it is inclusive of anyone and everyone.
“It is a place where I look forward to learning even more, so that I can go back to my community and use my new skills as a Coach Educator,” she says.
Helen Silvester, director West India, British Council says that it is through football that Premier Skills develops life and employability skills and the same give young people in remote areas access to international standards of training, teach them how to have more control over their own lives and how to contribute meaningfully to their communities.
Mohammed says that ever since she started playing football, she knew she was in the sport to create an impact on people. “It’s been three years now that I first ventured into the sport, but the more I got into it, the more I knew that I had to use it to empower the community and take it forward,” says Mohammed.
After completing her education, she got a degree in Sports Management, a branch that not many get into. She points out that right from day one, her parents were positive and supportive of her getting into sports. “I think the reason is that my father too is into sports and wanted me to have opportunities that he never had. So their encouragement is something that has been important for me,” she says and adds that in 2019, she expects more and more people to support their children when they decide to venture into sports full time.
Mohammed even interned with Indian Super League club Mumbai City FC to work with the grassroots development team. “Being a part of it, I got an opportunity to work towards the development of women’s football, especially in communities where young girls don’t get enough opportunities because it is heavily male dominated,” she adds.
But Mohammed is happy that this scenario is drastically changing now. “Talking from my own experience, the few times that I held the football camps for children, I saw a lot of girls coming forward and along with them were their mothers who wanted to get into it for the sake of fitness and health.”
She says that she has always believed that when it comes to empowerment, it has to be a collective approach. “We are all in this together,” she says.
However, the one thing that she has noticed about women is the fact that they have a tendency to build barriers around themselves. “For some reason, women always have this mindset — ‘Oh no! How can I?’, ‘What will people say?’ and so on. If we want equality, the first step is to break these barriers down and not limit ourselves to certain things but go out and explore the world.”
Mohammed believes that if you have the hope to achieve something, it will be your driving force. “It worked for me and I know now it is my duty to instill that quality in other girls because that is the only way forward,” she says.
When asked how her experience has been when people find out that a female coach will be coaching them, Mohammed says, “It is actually funny and amusing to watch their body language when they get a glimpse of me. I can tell that in their brain, they go like, ‘What! A woman is going to train us!”
Of course, that does not deter her from doing what she does best. “I have always believed that an individual has 5 minutes to create an impression on anyone and these first 5 minutes are so important in any profession. So I usually stand my ground with confidence and that is when they know that I, like any male counterparts, mean serious business.”