"from there the idea of creating a children’s storybook was born."
Trailblazing football coach Manisha Tailor MBE has written an inspiring book for young people to help them believe that dreams are possible.
Manisha is the Assistant Head of Coaching (U9-U16) at QPR Football Club, making her the only person of South Asian heritage in that respective role.
While there are British South Asian players and coaches, there is an evident lack of representation across all levels of English football and Manisha has been working to make a positive change.
She is the founder of Swaggerlicious, which is an organisation that uses football and education to engage with ethnic minorities and women.
Manisha has now written a book titled Dream Like Me: South Asian Football Trailblazers.
In this first-of-a-kind book, Manisha has profiled 42 British South Asian individuals working in all parts of the game.
Based on interviews, these powerful stories not only illustrate the challenges faced by these role models but lessons that they can offer young readers.
Ahead of the book’s release, Manisha spoke to DESIblitz about her ideas behind the venture and the important messages it conveys.
How did you come up with the idea of writing a book?
During my time as a teacher, I had worked across various schools and within different cultural demographics and had always pondered upon the question of why there were few texts, supported by illustrations, of people from diverse communities; texts that represented the children that we had in our school.
When I transitioned into working in football, I found that although improving, there remained a lack of representation from the South Asian community across all levels of the game, despite it being one of the largest ethnic minority groups to be living in the UK.
During the lockdown, I was on flexible furlough and spent much time going back to the question that I had pondered upon as a teacher, but this time I had the time to think and plan ideas that could provide solutions to this issue – from there the idea of creating a children’s storybook was born.
What was your process when writing your book?
My first book was a teaching resource that provides lesson plans on teaching mental health, therefore I already knew that I wanted the premise of this book to be underpinned by stories of resilience and positive mental health.
I researched texts currently available, spoke with teachers and leaders in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion as well as key football stakeholders.
I also used my learnings and experience in education to develop the concept and really consider the benefits of this book, thinking about why it would be read and what the key takeaways would be.
The next part of the process involved making a list of those involved in the game at the time, their job roles and trying to find a balance between female and male role models.
I made contact with individuals, posted on social media, sent numerous emails and ultimately this resulted in just over 40 amazing people agreeing to be involved.
I interviewed each person, transcribed where required and then worked with a ghostwriter to turn the interview into a children’s story.
Thereafter I edited the stories, supplemented each with questions for thinking and worked with an illustrator to create line drawings to help bring the stories to life.
Whilst I was working my way through the stories I had been contacting publishers and fortunately signed the book to Hope Road who are extremely passionate about sharing the voices of people from diverse backgrounds.
Your book contains 42 profiles. Who are some of the people you spoke to?
The book contains pioneering individuals working in all parts of the game – from male and female players to coaches, referees, board members, administrators, sports scientists and medical staff – and representing different cultures and faiths within the British South Asian community.
To name a few, Millie Chandarana who currently plays for Blackburn Rovers speaks about how football has provided her with an opportunity to travel, where she found herself in Italy having to adapt to a new culture and learn a new language.
Sports Broadcaster Bela Shah shares her story of making the move into media from being a contract lawyer thus illustrating her transferable skillset.
Neil Taylor who played both league and international football discusses the importance of parental support and managing with rejection.
Each pioneer shares a story of resilience and provides lessons for good mental health, offering young readers advice and inspiration.
Were there any challenges/obstacles when writing the book?
My manuscript was rejected many times and it required a lot of will and desire to keep persisting until it was accepted by a publication.
The whole process from mind mapping ideas to publication has taken me 3 years, therefore I needed to be extremely patient, which I am sure you can imagine was tested many times.
It was also particularly challenging juggling a full-time job, alongside the book, therefore I had to become more adaptable and find pockets of time to allow me to complete the project.
“I have been unable to source any sponsorship, therefore have funded the book myself which financially was a strain.”
I chose to delay the process to allow me to save money each month, which in turn paid for the illustrator and ghostwriter.
Who is your book targeted at and what do you want them to take away after reading it?
Young people need to see people like them in order to believe that dreams are possible.
I would like this book to start conversations about overcoming adversity and using role models within the industry.
I would also like to open conversations about mental health, using the lessons for good mental health and questions for thinking.
This should encourage families to explore and share their beliefs about representation in elite sport, career pathways and mental health.
What can readers expect from your book?
This book tells the tales of those who work in a variety of roles within the world of football, featuring those who are from different cultures and faiths within the British South Asian community.
“It highlights the challenges that they have faced and the strategies that they have used to overcome setbacks.”
Throughout, there is an emphasis on signature strengths that have helped those featured to be the best possible version of themselves.
Signature strengths are the positive components of your personality that impact how you think, feel and behave, and these strengths are considered to be a foundation for good emotional health, well-being and resilience in life.
How did you find the book-writing experience overall?
It was stressful at times!
However, as I went through the process of hearing about the journeys of triumph from these individuals, I was empowered and inspired to finish so that these can be shared with the rest of the world.
Are there plans to write another book in the future?
There are so many more role models and trailblazers than ever before therefore a series may definitely be something to think about!
Young people need to see people like them in order to believe that dreams are possible and Dream Like Me: South Asian Football Trailblazers highlights that.
The role models in this inspirational book will show South Asian children and teens that their football dreams can come true.
Dream Like Me: South Asian Football Trailblazers releases on September 29, 2022, and to preorder the book, visit Hope Road Publishing.