West Brom Women forward Mariam Mahmood has held talks with Pakistani officials about playing for the national team, Sky Sports News understands.
Speaking ahead of South Asian Heritage Month in her first interview with a major platform, British-Pakistani Mahmood opened up to Sky Sports News about her love for West Brom, where she has come through the ranks and established herself as an important part of the first-team squad.
That caught the attention of Pakistan scouts, who contacted West Brom Women about Mahmood’s availability to play for Pakistan directly off the back of the story.
The teenager’s sole focus at the time was to continue improving and developing as a footballer, and Sky Sports News understands that position remains unchanged for the time being.
Mahmood is a talented former England Colleges international and is highly rated by West Brom director of football Dave Lawrence and manager Jenny Sugarman.
Pakistan Women returned to international action for the first time in eight years when they played at the South Asian Football Federation Women’s Championship (SAFF) in Nepal in September.
Mahmood has been playing the best football of her fledgling career, with the 18-year-old forward scoring six goals in West Brom’s last five games before the winter break.
One of those goals came against Derby County at The Hawthorns last month, where Mahmood became just the third West Brom Women’s player ever to score at the 122-year-old stadium.
Fellow British South Asian footballer Kira Rai was also on target in that game, rounding off the scoring in a 3-1 win for the Ewe Rams.
Sikh-Punjabi attacker Rai added her voice to calls for meaningful change to improve diversity in the women’s game in an interview with Sky Sports News in October.
Rai told Sky Sports News: “It has to change – and hopefully that time is soon.
“I think slowly we are breaking it down bit-by-bit, but I think a lot more work needs to be put in at the elite level to make it a level playing field for everyone involved.
“Until you see a representation of all backgrounds within the elite level of sport and football, the authorities are going to have to do more to get to that stage – and even then you have to keep pushing.
“The authorities need to do more, everybody needs to do more to make it more diverse at every level of the game.”
The Football Association has been unable to provide any ethnicity data on diverse representation within girls’ and women’s elite pathways when contacted by Sky Sports News.
The FA said its key aims are to provide greater access for more players while diversifying the talent pool, pointing to its Discover My Talent initative and referring Sky Sports News to its Asian Inclusion Strategy update and wider Diversity and Inclusion strategy.
Khan, Hanif and Malik join Pakistan training camp
Doncaster Rovers Belles sensation Nadia Khan earned a maiden call-up for the SAFF tournament and ended up making history after becoming the first woman ever to score four goals in an international match for Pakistan, during her country’s win 7-0 against the Maldives.
Khan is currently in Lahore for a Pakistan National Team training camp, where she has been joined by fellow British-Pakistani players Amina Hanif and Zahmena Malik.
Hanif and Malik are attacking midfielders, with both linking up with Pakistan for the first time, ahead of potentially being included in a four-nation tournament in Saudi Arabia next month.
Hanif, 20, plays for Chesham United, and was a transfer target earlier this year for former Harlow Town Ladies boss Ruudy Yusuf, who put her name forward for consideration by Pakistan at international level.
Yusuf told Sky Sports News: “Amina has quick feet, a high football IQ and a genuine willingness to learn and get better. She has a great attitude and is destined to do great things in the game if she keeps on doing the right things.”
Malik combines playing for Women’s National League Division One South East side London Seaward with coaching for Bloomsbury Football, and celebrated her 21st birthday while in Lahore earlier this week.
Yusuf added: “Zahmena doesn’t realise how good she is and is going from strength to strength. She’s playing at a good standard with a really good club under some great coaches with strong values. Zahmena is another player who anything is possible for if she can continue the trajectory.”
Trailblazer Mushtaq lands player award in Greece
Meanwhile, British-Pakistani footballer Aqsa Mushtaq has been named Most Valuable Player at the Panhellenic Professional Football Players Association Awards.
Mushtaq, who hails from Bradford, has recently joined Crete-based Ergotelis after an impressive debut campaign in the Greek top flight with Avantes Chalkida.
The 24-year-old is a graduate of Lenoir-Rhyne University where she scored 13 goals in 17 matches in her final season at the North Carolina-based college.
In 2019, Mushtaq was named South Atlantic Conference Player of the Year, helping her secure a move to Napoli, where she became the first player of Pakistani heritage ever to join a women’s team playing in Italy’s top division.
How Sky is trying to make change
Diverse ethnic under-representation has again become a major talking point in women’s football since the Lionesses fielded an all-white starting XI for every match of their stunning Women’s Euros triumph.
Sky Sports recognised and began taking steps to address the lack of diversity in the women’s game back in 2020 as part of its £30m commitment to tackle systemic racism and make a difference in communities across the UK.
Sky Sports has worked with dozens of current and former players from diverse ethnic backgrounds, and has tried to give them a platform to share their stories to try and capture the imagination to inspire the next generation of female footballers.
A number of elite and elite-potential female players and their families have also been supported with mentoring and access to off-field developmental opportunities.
Earlier this year, Sky Sports also partnered with the country’s largest sports race equality charity, Sporting Equals, which has seen us support participation across the country, including devising the ‘Seeing Is Believing’ event for century-old west London sports club Indian Gymkhana.
British South Asians in Football
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