Categorized | Feature, Interviews

South Asian women can do more than singing, dancing and academics .. play soccer for instance

Posted on 20 August 2015 by admin

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There’s thrill in defending and scoring

Mahima Kuruvila, Captain of westside women’s soccer team

A South Asian women’s soccer team is the start to breaking barriers and stereotypes

Jose Chinnu, Captain of eastside women’s soccer team

With the help of Toronto Malayalee Samajam, South Asian women in the GTA now have played at the first ever South Asian women’s soccer tournament. Mahima Kuruvila is the captain of the West team! Her team brought home the victory in the tournament played on Saturday.

Jose Chinnu, the captain of the eastside team is a full time Chemical Engineer by profession and a part-time volunteer teacher. She comes from a lineage of three generations of educators. Active in piano, dancing, acting, pageants and modelling over the past few years, and presently a titleholder of Miss Malayalee North America 2013 1st-runner up and Miss FOKANA 2014 (Federation of Kerala Associations of North America), Jose believes a woman can never be complete with just these avenues. Saturday’s game “has been a big jump for me – now I am not just a pageant girl, I am also a sports girl.”

Mahima is a student at York University pursuing Health Science degree as a prerequisite before medical school.

In an interview with Generation Next, these young women talked about stereotypes on why there isn’t an organized effort to promote soccer in the South Asian community, about their diet, training and monthly cycles:

Why choose soccer?

Mahima: I chose soccer because I have been playing the sport since I was a young kid. There is nothing like the thrill of running from one side of the field to the other side, all while defending and scoring your most prized possession in the moment – the soccer ball.

Jose: There was no particular reason why I chose soccer. Toronto Malayalee Samajam (TMS) has been holding this annual men’s soccer tournament for the past couple of years. As I had held positions within TMS such as Entertainment Coordinator and Youth Representative for over the past few years, I would come religiously every year to the tournaments to watch. Last year, at the tournament, the idea about forming a women’s team came into my head. I had gotten the chance to put this idea into effect this year. Hence, about a month ago, I initiated this idea during a committee meeting and everybody acknowledged it as a splendid, new idea, LIKE NEVER BEFORE! I steer headed and fulfilled this idea by taking leadership as Captain of the East Side team.

How did your families react to your choice?

Mahima: My family is very supportive of my decision, they encouraged me to take on the captain role and were more than happy to help me out in any way they could have. My whole family came out on game day with signs that supported our team and were the best cheerleaders a girl could ever ask for!

Jose: My family was very supportive as they give priority to fitness.

Is it a career or more of a hobby?

Mahima: Definitely more of a hobby, I am working on my career in medicine at the moment. The sport relieves any school stress I do have.

Jose: At this moment in time, it is a hobby. I myself am an amateur player and would love to over the next couple of months, evolve my techniques in playing soccer and become a better player.

Why hasn’t there been a South Asian women’s soccer team?

Mahima: To be very honest, I formed both teams and it was very difficult to find girls who were interested in playing for a tournament and also the time we were given to form the teams was short notice but we still pulled through effectively. Also, the organizers of other teams assumed that women would not play and that we would not be able to find enough people. I was speaking to Rajendran from Toronto Malayalee Samajam (TMS) who really helped me out with jerseys and organization of the team. He still finds it mind-blowing that I was able to find 25 -girls who wanted to play soccer as competitive as we did!

Jose: I think the reason for that is mainly due to the Malayalee culture. Men are always put in the light when it comes to physical activities, especially sports. There is this stereotype that women have to be prim and proper all the time. I am proud to have broken this barrier this time around and for the many more years to come.

I think this thought-process of breaking the “Men only” barrier has always been there due to working in a male dominated industry (Engineering). I face difficult and stressful situations daily with confidence, strength and composure. I am a leader and a motivator for large groups of people each day and I have learned to keep positive through adversity. This enabled me to be Captain for East Side and in steer-heading a team of 11 players. Let this initiative be a strong start to the Malayalee women and girls in our community!

Are the reasons religious, financial or just stereotypes?

The reasons are definitely not religious or financial because all of our families supported us if we need the finances or emotional support. I would say the reasons are more stereotypical because it is not common for South Asian women to go above and beyond and play competitive soccer.

How do you gals deal with your monthly cycles while training or during the match?

Mahima: No pain, no gain!

Do you have a special diet?

Mahima: Not at all! I eat anything I can find, it’s usually junk food. I know that is horrible for me to say, but this is the truth!

Jose: No, I have never dieted ever in my life. I think as a young woman, eating right is extremely important. The only thing I think I would watch is eating less carbs, especially because I want better abs! :D

Given intense weather temperatures in Canada, does it prevent women to think of sports particularly outdoor sports like soccer seriously?

Jose: I do not think that has ever been an excuse at all for women not playing soccer, since we also have the option for indoor soccer if weather becomes intense.

What do you believe that the South Asian women’s soccer team can achieve in the near and long future?

Mahima: We can definitely compete in more tournaments, raise the stakes higher and build an amazing name for us!

Jose: South Asian women, I think are undermined when it comes to sports. Our Indian culture thinks women are better only when it comes to dancing, singing or academics. A South Asian women’s soccer team to me, is the start to breaking barriers and stereotypes about women!

We can be positive role models, Michele Peter 

Michele Peter/Defender for Westside

 

 

Please tell us a bit about your academic and family backgrounds?

I went to Ryerson University and I am a proud Ryerson Alumni. I studied Social Work. I am also an advocate for child and youth related issues and bring awareness through the media regarding social issues children, youth and women face in society. Hence, that is why I reached out to Generation Next.  My father was on many sports teams back home but my mom laid low and had nothing to do with sports but loves to watch it, especially soccer matches.

Why choose soccer?

Soccer is fun. I played a bit in Elementary school and I am a fan of watching Soccer during world cup and Euro Cup. It’s a very intense and action packed game.

How did your families react to your choice?

I was suprised my parents were supportive. However, my mom was paranoid that I might get injured and kept trying to scare me by telling me of random sports injury stories from the news.

Is it a career or more of a hobby?

It is definitely a hobby for me. I have always wanted to be part of an athletic team but never had the time because of work and because I wanted to play with an all girl South Asian team but there was never one that existed so I never joined.

Why hasn’t there been a South Asian women’s soccer team?

I think there has not been a South Asian women’s soccer team because we do not have a strong social support whether it is through the media, organizations, cultural communities, family or friends. I say strong support because some family and friends approve of the idea but do not know how to help or are not strong in having their voices heard on behalf of the South Asian Women. Many organzations financially invest in many boys and men’s teams but have not even approached the idea of assisting a girls or women’s team. It is possible they assume us women are weak, we do not have athletic skills or we are just entertainment if we played. Some people probably believe in stereotypes that South Asian Women should stay at home cooking and cleaning or stick to their profession that has nothing to do with sports. Many people assume we are fragile, sensitive and worried we might say sorry everytime we nudge someone during a game. Nevertheless, many do not know that some of the players are already in other soccer leagues and have been training hard and playing soccer in tournaments across the globe.

 

What kind of training do you go through?

We do different drills and I even looked tips on youtube. Also some guys from the male soccer teams helped us out at a practices and former players became our coaches. We also have many girls on both The East side and West side team who have been playing in leagues for many years so they also have taught us so much and have been really helpful and encouraging.

 

Given intense weather temperatures in Canada, does it prevent women to think of sports particularly outdoor sports like soccer seriously?

No, I do not think the  Canadian weather effects our passion in wanting to play soccer. We did practice in the rain before because we had no choice but one time we had to cancel because of severe thunderstorms. In that case, we were looking out for the safety of the players and nobody wanted to get sick and lose players before the game.

 

Do you have a special diet?

I stick to my regular diet which is a fruit and veggie smoothie in the morning with oatmeal and chia seeds and with a big lunch with protein in it such as chicken and also oat bar and carrots, cucumber, Let’s face it, when your South Asian carbs is a must. At dinner I try to something light like a salad unless my mom makes roti and curry. I drink 8 glasses of water and also match green tea lattes. I do love my sweets though but trying to cut down. We did pig out at Wild Wings after the tournament though mmmmmmmmm

What do you believe that the South Asian women’s soccer team can achieve in the near and long future?

The South Asian women’s soccer team can achieve a platform in the athletic community in our society. Also we can be positive role models for some girls interested in playing sports but are living in fear that they will not be accepted and have instilled in their minds that it is not the norm to play sports. I want to thank the players on Eastside and Westside for speaking up and approaching the idea to non-profit charitable organization Toronto Malayalee Samajam with having for the first time an all girls soccer team. Within a month the Eastside and Westside teams were put together. In all honesty, it was hard to get South Asian female players but we did the best we can with the limited time in order to finally make a societal movement and break many cultural barriers. After the game, many people took us seriously and never thought we had it in us to play hard. We brought to the forefront women’s athleticism. We tore a layer of the historical norms and changed history. We crossed boundaries that many women thought they could not. Thank you Toronto Malayalee Samajam for truly defining this remarkable moment in our lives. Thank you to all the loved ones for having faith and your encourgement and thank you Generation Next Magazine who was the only media outlet to support in such a short notice. God Bless.

Watch out, we’re just getting started, Nisha Thomas

Player: Nisha Thomas; Team: East; Position: Mid-fielder

Please tell us a bit about your academic and family backgrounds?

My name is Nisha Thomas. I completed my Bachelor of Social Work and Master of Social Work from Ryerson University and University of Toronto, respectively. My experience is within community mental health agencies, international community development, child protective services, healthcare and hospital settings, and I currently work within a correctional centre. I have had the privilege to meet individuals from various walks of life facing different types of challenges; this has fuelled my passion and advocacy for recognition of mental health prevalence and appropriate treatment in the South Asian community.

 

Why choose soccer?

I have been playing soccer since I was 5 years old. It became my usual evening activity during summer holidays, and my brother and I participated in the same league. I was always drawn to soccer over other sports, and it was an activity that was able to bring my whole family together.

Are the reasons religious, financial or just stereotypes?

In terms of stereotypes, when it comes to women and sports, they have often been seen as inferior to their male counterparts. Thankfully, I have been privileged to have been around some amazing female leaders who constantly challenge that misconception. In my opinion, sports can be like anything else in life: the more work you put into it, the more you practice, the more you commit, the greater your results will be …regardless of gender!

Given intense weather temperatures in Canada, does it prevent women to think of sports particularly outdoor sports like soccer seriously?

While factors such as weather conditions can make playing outdoor sports such as soccer challenging, I have previously played soccer with a team indoors for one season during the winter months. Where there is a will, there will absolutely always be a way!

What do you believe that the South Asian women’s soccer team can achieve in the near and long future?

Just like every other endeavor, we need to start somewhere! Finally being able to have our first women’s soccer team is a great start. I am hopeful that these initial leaders will be able to bring more women in for the future. The beginning is always the hardest, but perseverance is necessary to keep this momentum going!

 

It’s been long overdue that the intersection between South Asian woman and soccer/sports take place. In the future, I think you will be able to see more female presence in not only soccer, but other sports as well (volleyball, basketball, etc.) Watch out, we are just getting started!

Younger generations will become part of regular soccer tournaments, Leanne Poothullil

Leanne Poothullil, Position: Forward – Captain

 

Please tell us a bit about your academic and family backgrounds?

I have graduated from the Trent-Queens Concurrent Education program to become a teacher. I have supplied in England, Ottawa and I am now finally back in Toronto!

Why choose soccer?

Our family has always been active and soccer has always been a part of my life. My dad has coached soccer for both the girls and boys recreational teams for my brother and I when we were younger. Soccer has therefore always been a favourite past time for my family and I. Through my families active lifestyle I have always found playing sports a lot more fun than watching them!

How did your families react to your choice?

 

Is it a career or more of a hobby?

Soccer has been a recreational activity that my family and I enjoy to keep us healthy and active while having fun. I have not trained professionally; however, it is a great sport to enjoy with family and friends!

 

Why hasn’t there been a South Asian women’s soccer team?

I used to go with my dad and brother as they played with the scarborough malayalees before all the tournaments took place. No other women played and I have always been asked why I am not participating in games. It is however difficult to organize a women’s recreational team with everyone’s busy schedules and simply not having enough women interested. I am however ecstatic that the initiative has been taken to organize a women’s soccer team!

Are the reasons religious, financial or just stereotypes?

 

What kind of training do you go through?

 

Given intense weather temperatures in Canada, does it prevent women to think of sports particularly outdoor sports like soccer seriously?

 

How do you gals deal with your monthly cycles while training or during the match?

 

Do you have a special diet?

 

What do you believe that the South Asian women’s soccer team can achieve in the near and long future?

I believe that having a South Asian women’s soccer team is a huge triumph! It helps women of all ages gain new skills, stay fit and gain confidence in themselves! I anticipate that this becomes a regular tournament that more women are interested to join and that the younger generation hopes to someday become a part of.

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