To celebrate International Women's Day 2021, Punjabi Rams wanted to highlight South Asian women that are breaking down stereotypes in what is often seen as a male dominated environment.
Kira Rai is a winger for Derby County Ladies FC, having worked her way up through the ranks at the club as a product of the Ewe Rams Academy. We had the opportunity to sit down and understand what #IWD2021 means to her.
What does International Women's Day mean to you?
I think it is important as it serves as a purpose to commemorate and recognise achievements and contributions of women across the globe and ensures that they get the attention they deserve!
How tough/easy was it to convince your family that football was a career you wanted to pursue?
Luckily, it was quite easy for me as football plays a big part in our family. From an early I age would spend hours in the garden kicking around a ball with my dad and joining in with my older cousins when the family got together at my grandparents house. My parents then encouraged me to join a team when I was about 7 or 8 and ever since have been extremely supportive as they know it’s something I enjoy and have always taken me to training sessions and matches - my dad still always comes to my games now!
What are the barriers females face in Football?
The lack of funding is a big barrier in our game as it means things such as transport and facilities aren’t always at the standard required. But luckily at Derby we do have access to the facilities at Moor Farm as well as transport being provided for away games. Due to the lack of investment in the sport, players have to balance alternative careers alongside their footballing career even at the top of the sport. I think the stigma associated with women in football still remains and continues to hinder participation. Although the media coverage of women’s football has improved I think it is still a barrier to overcome in order to increase participation and attract more attention to the sport.
As a South Asian female footballer do you feel like you have more to prove?
Not necessarily as when I turn up to play football I just see myself as one of the girls and don’t see my skin colour or my background making it any different. However, coming back to the stigma associated with women in football, this is far more apparent in the South Asian community and so does serve as a source of motivation to succeed in my football career.
Who is your role model?
My sporting role model is Serena Williams, as I feel like she is the ideal representation of a female athlete, her mindset and character embody that of a true winner. She has faced a lot of adversity in her career due to her skin colour but has always overcome this and come out on top. She always stands up for what she believes in and actively fights for this which is something I admire.
Advice for young girls that would like get into football?
Just go for it, play as often as you can and don’t let what other people think stop you from playing football. I would say join a local team, to train hard but always remember to enjoy it!
A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.
So let's all choose to challenge.
How will you help forge a gender equal world?
Celebrate women's achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.