Meet Deena Rahman who plays for the national Bahrain team. In 1999 she was one of the first ever female players in Europe to win a professional contract with Fulham FC, though it wasn’t set to be plain sailing. Here she describes her achievements and how she is making sure that more women and girls have opportunities to play and get involved in football.
Want to help Deena get up Mt Kilimanjaro and inspire the next generation? Visit https://startsomegood.com/equalplayingfield
I started playing football in the UK when I was 7, joining the local club, Fulham FC, in their community programme. I was the only girl at the time. It was the same at school, but since I played well, I gained the respect from my male team mates.
Thankfully Fulham were committed to promoting girls’ football and a team was quickly formed. A bit later, I crossed over to Arsenal FC to play in their under 14s for a short time, but then returned to Fulham to play adult football. At that time, as soon as you hit 14, the only option was to join the full ladies team. When I was fifteen I was selected for the U18 England squad where I gained 18 Caps.
During that time, Fulham Chairman Mohammed Al Fayed had seen the popularity of women’s football in the 1999 USA World Cup and decided to start the first professional women’s team in Europe. I was fortunate to be one of only 16 female players to have a professional contract. We had to work our way through the leagues and in the 3rd year we went on to win every honour in England. However, the excitement was short lived as Fulham FC made financial cutbacks. The woman’s set up was the one to suffer most and eventually the team went back to being amateur.
While I was professional I completed a degree in sports science and passed my coaching badges. In 2010 I was offered a job to coach for Arsenal Soccer Schools in Bahrain and remained in the role for 5 years before my husband and I set up our own Football Academy called Tekkers Academy. As a coach I have never felt the pressure to prove myself as a female, however I did soon realise that before I walked on to the pitch I was being judged more than my male peers as to whether I was good enough. Luckily throughout my coaching career I have quashed any gender issues quickly through my coaching and playing capabilities and hopefully inspire all the boys and girls in our academy.
I am proud to have encouraged more females to take up football in some form in Bahrain and we are delighted to have over 80 females currently playing at Tekkers. I formed the First Ladies league in Bahrain which has now been adopted by the Bahrain Football Association.
I currently represent the Bahrain National Team and have played 40 competitive matches scoring 23 goals. Only recently we played in the Asia Cup qualifiers in Tajikistan and were unfortunate not to qualify for the Asia Cup Finals.
I am excited to take part in this challenge not only from a personal perspective but also to continue to inspire our young players to succeed in breaking down barriers similar to which I have experienced throughout my career.
If you would like to support Deena and others break a world record and inspire a new generation please donate here www.startsomegood/equalplayingfield
To find out more about the challenge, please go to www.equalplayingfield.com