New sports facility encourages women’s sports and community cohesion
Monday, November 2nd, 2015
Women’s football has taken off in Dewsbury following the opening of a brand new indoor football facility.
Kick Off Dewsbury which opened its doors in August and is a well-equipped,
family friendly environment. Comprising of three indoor 4th generation 5-a-side football pitches, two badminton courts and volleyball facilities.
The centre is based in the heart of Savile Town, Dewsbury. A town which has had its fair share of issues and problems revolving around extremism – be it the far-right or otherwise. One of Kick Off’s aims is community cohesion, to bring communities together and use football and sport as a means of doing so. Kick Off is working closely with local and national partners to be all inclusive, regardless of gender, race and religion.
One of the highlights for the local female population has been the focus on female participation in football. There is a regular slot for women’s football, football coaching for girls, women’s football tournaments and women only badminton sessions.
“Local women, both Muslim and non Muslim are participating in Kick Off initiatives and are very grateful that Kick Off are breaking the mould and empowering women in what is a very male dominated, conservative community” said Rashida Salloo, coach from Ready Steady Active, who is leading on women’s activities at Kick Off.
Kick Off is also working with Engage Dewsbury, a local Muslim led counter extremism project on various women’s football initiatives. Haroon Adam, founder of Engage Dewsbury said “We are hoping to increase female engagement in sport. Our work with Kick Off shows that Muslim women from a traditionally conservative community are not held back, despite what some of the critics may say. We are grateful for the support from Kick Off, who allow us the safe space for our activities at subsidised rates.”
Saima Bi, from Local Women’s Association, a women’s group from Savile Town, echoed the sentiments of Haroon Adam. “Kick Off has been a godsend for us – we are now playing badminton every week and are grateful to Kick Off for providing the courts at a discounted rate. The biggest thing for our ladies is the privacy and segregated facilities – this has widened participation in my view”.
Councillor Masood Ahmed (Lab, Dewsbury South) welcomed the new facility in his constituency. He said “Kick Off is going from strength to strength. I am very impressed with what they are doing for children and women in my constituency. It is refreshing to see local Muslim women happy to participate and this is testament to the success of Kick Off’s vision and strategy for women. “
Jamil Baig is the managing director of Kick Off. It was his vision three years ago which has now come to fruition. He invested heavily in the Kick Off project, because he felt there was a need for a local sports facility which is accessible for all local people – with a particular emphasis on the women in our community. He is from a local entrepreneurial family, who have been manufacturing beds for nearly 30 years, so this is a new area of business for him. He said “The antiquated notion that football isn’t suitable for women is now plainly contradicted by reality. Women’s football is now the most popular team sport for women in Britain – with 1.4million women and girls playing regularly. There has been exponential growth in women’s football as a participation sport and we want to be the pioneers for women’s football in our area. We are locally born and bred and therefore understand the local community and we are in contact with local scholars to better understand the Islamic rules pertaining to female participation in sport.”
Moulana Ilyas Dalal, a prominent local scholar said “Sports are permissible for women provided laws of hijab are adhered to, if we play sports in such a manner that no Shari’i (Islamic Law) rule is broken, then it would be acceptable. I would be supportive of Kick Off’s work with the women of this community as they have assured me that great care is being taken to preserve hijab, they are having female only sessions and they have invested heavily to ensure women can maintain an Islamic ethos”
Kick off is at the start of its journey to bring about a healthy future for Dewsbury – there are many other sectors of the community which it wants to target as part of its outreach work. It’s a given that men will play 5 a side football, but to make adjustments to include women, the disabled, the elderly are all part of the strategy going forward. An active participant, Ammarah Pandor is really excited for the future. “This new facility is brilliant for us girls. The management are working closely with us to develop a proper provision for females, taking into consideration the cultural and religious requirements and we look forward to the girls football league and more tournaments in the future”
Visit the Kick Off website for further information.