Football has been in the forefront of the media and on the front pages of newspapers after corruption allegations against FIFA.

As the allegations unravelled and the President of FIFA Joseph S. Blatter resigned, many voices began to speak out against his sexist remarks of how women should wear shorter skirts in women’s football to make the game more attractive.

The world’s first female British Asian football agent Shehneela Ahmed joined me on the sofa and commented on the corruption in FIFA. ‘FIFA were untouchable until Americans got involved’. Everyone knew FIFA was corrupt, but it was just a matter of proving it. Now that allegations are out, FIFA needs to be reformed – out with the old and in with the new. ‘It is an opportunity to get ethnic minorities and women on to the board and into the sport.’

Also joining me on the sofa was Manisha Tailor, an FA coach, scout, and tutor. Gender inequality and representation of ethnic minorities in football and sport dominated our conversation as both Shehneela and Manisha aim to bring greater diversity into football and sports, including seeing more engagement and participation from women and ethnic minorities.

I wanted to know how both were planning to fulfil these aims because it is one thing to say it needs to be done but how do we really initiate a tide of change?

Shehneela placed emphasis on the importance of parents supporting, motivating, and encouraging their children to participate in and engage in sports. Yes, children should still have an education, but parents should take them to games and venues. Currently, this engagement from parents of Asian descent is missing – especially on the weekends when they may want to sit at home watching a drama!

Motivation and support from the family is vital in a youngster going on to the next stage. Making videos of your child each time they play a game is a good way to keep track of their progression because, as Shehneela explained, every game is played differently.

Manisha began playing football when she was eight years old and advised starting early if you want to sign a pro-contract. We all know about how Lewis Hamilton started early so maybe there is something in that!

However, there are players that have accelerated at different rates so it depends where you see yourself and where you want your career to go. There is a football pyramid and many tiers, so starting early and signing to a grassroots club is advisable.

She also stated the important of knowledge and education. Many parents think of football and think straight away about the pitch. But there is a tier you have to go through, and only 1% sign a pro-contract so it is difficult. More knowledge and education is needed for parents and more parents need to actively encourage, participate and engage in sports.

Shehneela studied to become a lawyer because her parents encouraged education. Once you are educated, nobody can take that away from you. She was then encouraged by her male friends to become a football agent because of her legal background and because there was a gap in the market. Her mother found out about the new step in her career from a local newspaper! She had tears of joy when she found out.

Shehneela stated that if you are being given an education, it would be silly not to take it. She also stated that the FA has guidelines where children training for football have to also study, because careers are very short in football and professionals play up until the age of 30. So, players need their education to fall back on and can become a football manager or a physio-therapist after their career as a player.

Manisha is a qualified head teacher and although she had been playing football since she was eight, she delved into the sport after her brother became mentally ill. Her twin brother became mentally ill and non-verbal but he started to recognise something in her passion for football. One day he smiled and said ‘Manisha football’.

From this point onwards, she felt she had a moral responsibility and purpose to help her brother and others through the game. She also used football to help with her own emotions and feels connected to her brother through the sport.

 Both Shehneela and Manisha are clearly role models for women in football, sports and across industries where they are trying to break barriers.

They both want to help ethnic minorities break into sports but Manisha explained that being Indian is a by-product and focusing on being an ethnic minority creates communities within communities. Being Asian is secondary to the primary aim and purpose which is about helping others. ‘Don’t allow anyone’s perceptions define you as a person’. ‘Whatever you set out to do, persevere’.

Shehneela agreed and stated people should not have anything to fear when it comes to be an ethnic minority, but should be focusing on their talent and even trying to be the first to break barriers. It does not matter if you are a man or a woman or of a different colour, do something and be an example to others.

I completely agreed that it should not matter whether you are a man, or a woman, or from a different background from the majority. Placing yourself in a box is regressive. Instead, focus on your talents and goals – forgive the pun!

It was an inspiring show to say the least, and I hope it will inspire and encourage many of you to go out there and follow your dreams!