Sehrish tells The Grassroots Post why dusting off her boots to play in the Super 5 League, was one of the best decisions she ever made.
LEAGUE: Super 5
WORDS: Sehrish Mumtaz IMAGES: George Tewkesbury
One afternoon, I heard through the lads at MUNDIAL Magazine about a women’s football team starting in Hackney, and I thought to myself: this could be the time to get the ball back at my feet.
Football was my first love. I was five years old when I got an airflow football from Santa. I kicked it around all evening and every evening for the next week, until my mum was forced to hide it from me to get me to bed. That was the start of my love affair.
I come from a Pakistani heritage where football wasn’t the best-known sport; cricket and hockey, on the other hand, they could talk about for days on end. My family wasn’t sporty, particularly as my mum never really considered sports as something girls could take part in. She didn’t know she could take me to sports clubs or places where I could play, so I learnt my trade in the back garden with my younger brother and on the green with the local kids. It wasn’t until I got to secondary school that my PE teacher recognised my potential and asked me to play for the school football club. And then, in my late teens, I also started coaching.
Eventually, football took over my life: I was coaching at The FA Girls’ Centre of Excellence, I was playing on weekends, watching Liverpool FC matches religiously and even working for my County FA. Every moment of my day was filled with football and I loved it.
However, it all changed when I moved away from Derby to London for my dream job at The FA. I was in a big, new city, and I felt out of place for the first few months with no family and friends around. I poured all my energy into doing well at my demanding job. This steadily became a chore, and I suddenly wanted to forget about football in my spare time. I stopped playing altogether.
Years went by without joining a team, and the more I held a football in my hands for photoshoots or filming for work, the more I began to want it at my feet. So one day, I decided to turn up to the other side of London at Mabley Green in Hackney, and see what would happen. I was very conscious of the fact that I’d be one of the older players, but I soon realised that on the pitch, age didn’t matter because I was having fun again.
I’ve worked in grassroots football for a long time and seen the growth of the women’s game, but the sheer number of teams in the Super 5 League took me aback.
It was the best decision I made. It’s given me a chance to get back to playing football and I have loved every minute of it. Kicking a ball brings me so much joy, and it’s an added bonus when you’re surrounded by so many amazing personalities. Playing football when I was younger was restricted to only being good on the pitch, but now it’s much more open and expressive both on and off it. We feel encouraged to have a voice in the community to bring people together and it’s allowed us to become more creative with what we can do on social media.
I’ve worked in grassroots football for a long time and seen the growth of the women’s game, but the sheer number of teams in the Super 5 League took me aback. It’s been brilliant to know that there are so many incredible teams to play against: something you can’t take for granted in women’s five-a-side!
I now have a place to go where I can feel that thrill of kicking a ball again with a group of wonderful people who have become my little family. I didn’t know that this was the missing piece in my life until I found it.
I can say for certain that until my knees give way, I won’t be letting it go anytime soon. My team, Coats and Goalposts, is my home away from home.