How a National-Level Hockey Player Inspired Hundreds To Consider Careers in Football!
It is rare to come across people who not only achieve their dreams but go above and beyond to do the same for hundreds of others. This story is to celebrate a gem of a person, Tanaz Mohammad, national hockey player, Grassroots Development Officer at Mumbai City Football Club, sports management professional, a coach, an educator, and an inspiration. Along with acing her dream of building a career in football, Tanaz has mentored countless students who are eager to follow her path and helped 500 girls break self-made barriers and pursue careers in sports. She has coached underserved children and her contribution to the society is admirable in every aspect!
While most children eventually fall out of sports as they grow, or pursue a sport as a hobby, Tanaz aimed to build a career around her passion. Her love for sports began with playing hockey and other team sports at the age of seven. Later, she took to the study of Sports Management during post-graduation and developed a love for football and hockey. She even played hockey at the national level! “Both hockey and football hold an equal place in my heart,” she said in an interview with Giving for Good Foundation.
Tanaz believes that the time she spent pursing different sports has played a significant role in transforming her personality. From a young, shy girl she is now a confident, courageous woman who fondly looks back at the days she spent interacting with teams and developing her skills through sports. She believes that when children are given the opportunity to play freely with a team, they get a lot more room to learn about themselves and grow as individuals.
Some go on a search for the purpose of life, and some discover the purpose of life. It is the latter for Tanaz. An internship opportunity at the Mumbai City Football Club presented itself after Tanaz completed her post-graduation. Although hockey was her go-to sport at the time, she decided to give football a chance. Tanaz chose to upgrade her skills and started taking football lessons. After 3 years of consistency and commitment, she became a coach and, like she says, discovered her purpose in life.
Tanaz says that she stepped into her new role knowing that not many people imagine a future in football or sports, especially in India. Her experience with this wonderful sport altered her thought-process. Once football started opening pleasantly life-changing opportunities for her, she decided to help hundreds more develop careers in sports.
“What I have observed is that many people play to a level and drift away. I have personally experienced this. I started to play with a group of people but only two or three of us made a career in sports. This is one of the reasons that made me realize my purpose in life is to reach more people and raise awareness regarding the opportunities available in sports,” says Tanaz.
Her First Steps
Determined to encourage children to believe in the possibilities sports have to offer, Tanaz started reaching out to children who are deprived or from lower middle-class families who knew the sport. Gradually, Tanaz started to reach out to NGOs. “I connect with them to understand if they’d like to build a football team. For example, if the NGOs have kids but don't know how to create a pathway for them to understand what football is or to give exposure to football, I help them upgrade the skills of the kids. I also help them understand how they can become a coach,” shares Tanaz as she talks about reaching out to children.
She further adds, “I try to create links. If I know a team, say under 13/15 that is preparing and I find any of the other kids doing well, I try to arrange a trial for the kids and if at all they do well, they get to join the team and play at a higher level.” Tanaz believes the game teaches a lot, hence for the younger kids, her approach is to give them room to explore.
While talking about challenges, a major one for Tanaz has been maintaining a series of consistency in training, as children would not show up on most days. She explains, “Just imagine someone who has been sleeping on the footpath now has gone to play with a team. The beauty of the game is it knows no difference. A person just needs to know how to play football, that's all that is required. It is an honest sport and I try to promote that positively.” Truly, sports know no difference and Tanaz advocates that sports like these allow humans to look at one another like humans, nothing less.
A crucial part of Tanaz's approach is educating the parents as they play a significant role in shaping the careers of their children. She understands the concerns of the parents. “It is important for the parents to know that one can make a proper career and get a respectable job in sports. Their hesitations are very much understandable,” shares Tanaz.
Empowering Through Football
Imagine the happiness and pride that comes with inspiring hundreds to break through self-made barriers! Through her constant training, support and advocacy, Tanaz has helped more than 500 girls belonging to conservative backgrounds act their minds, break barriers, and pursue football as a sport and a career.
When Tanaz started reaching out to people, she focused on convincing girls. She says that it would be incorrect to label this as gender discrimination, and adds, “The journey is more difficult for girls. Not only for the girls, but also for their parents. A major concern for parents is how a girl can make a career in football or in any sport for that matter. Convincing parents of girls is extra work. So, I reach out to them and explain to them the vast opportunities that lie ahead.”
Lack of Awareness in Sports Education
Tanaz, who has been into sports since she was 7 years old, has had her share of struggles while walking down her career path. Despite being a sportsperson for almost a decade, she explains she wasn’t aware of the opportunities in sports other than joining the railways or any government team. “It took me 3 years to figure out that our country has Sports Management. Around 2015, awareness about Sports Management was just coming up. However, the picture has changed in the past 7 years. Now we know Sports Management, but at that time awareness was limited,” says Tanaz. She believes that even though people are aware now, they are hesitant when it comes to careers in sports. However, she finds the present scenario promising and commits to doing her bit to make people aware about the opportunities available in sports.
Careers in Football
Tanaz is beyond excited for what lies ahead. “It is my dream to reach out to more people, beyond Maharashtra, throughout India. Because I know if in a city like Mumbai there are so many people who are still not aware, then Maharashtra is a bigger deal and India is far more work. This is like a dream project to me that I'm working towards it in bits and pieces. I hope one day I make it big and make it accessible to everyone who needs it.”
With such passion and dedication, it appears that Tanaz will meet her goal in no time, and we wish her nothing but success! From becoming a national-level hockey player and a football coach to guiding thousands of children towards the path less traveled, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to call Tanaz an absolute inspiration! Her work proves that one can reach amazing heights and still be humble, look at people without differentiating and go out of their way to lift others. Kudos to Tanaz for her incredible work and we can't wait to see her soar higher in her endeavor!
Exclusively written for Giving for Good Foundation by Puja Das