"There wasn't that many female agents, especially any Asian ones that I was aware."
Shehneela Ahmed is Britian’s and World’s first Asian female football agent approved by the English Football Association (FA).
Successfully rising through the ranks of a lawyer, Shehneela is on a mission to promote British Asian talent, hopefully giving them a chance to play at the biggest level.
British Asians make up 7.5 per cent of the UK population, yet only a few players of South Asian heritage have played in the top four divisions of English football.
Naturally more can be done by individual clubs. In the past, Liverpool and Chelsea have launched separate initiatives to identify Asian talent, but few have followed their lead.
Shehneela who is an avid Manchester United fan herself, wants to build better links with the different communities and the clubs. One of Ahmed’s key aim is to change cultural attitudes.
Shehneela was born into an Asian Muslim family in Rochdale. Her parents, who migrated from Pakistan in the 1960s, have always been extremely proud of what she has accomplished.
She has become a guiding light, not just for her family, but the British Asian community as a whole.
The youngest of four siblings, Shehneela was the first girl to leave home in her generation to pursue further education. Having led the way from an early age, she is now extremely passionate about inspiring others to follow their dreams.
Studying Law at Staffordshire University was a huge step towards her future career. Shehneela built up her credentials further after completing a Legal Practice Course (LPC) at Guilford Law College, before eventually becoming a Criminal Solicitor.
During late 2013, Shehneela was granted her licence to become the first Asian female football agent, recognised by the English FA. In this landmark move, she was not just paving the way for women, but crucially, now football had one more Asian representative in the game.
For Shehneela, it has always been about making a difference within her community and improving the game she loves. Explaining her inspiration behind becoming a football agent, Shehneela exclusively told DESiblitz:
“There’s a lot of Asian people who are watching football. I think there was also the fact that a lot of my colleagues are males who are already in the industry who are football agents.
“They’ve always said that there is a shortfall of decent agents, especially with whats been said in the media about agents and how they have been dealing with players. There wasn’t that many female agents, especially any Asian ones that I was aware. That’s how I went into it.”
Since becoming an agent, Shehneela has been approached by many players, managers and clubs. Through her company Platinum FA, Shehneela represents footballers all over the country, with the aim to get more British Asian players featuring in top flight football.
Shehneela has signed up a number of players, including the promising 17 year old Waqas Azam.
The Burnley footballer looks like a real find and is certainly one who can make a big impact with the British Asian community. Ahmed has high hopes for the youngster as she said:
“Waqas [Azam] has a great future which lies ahead of him and will be a great role model for Asian youngsters across UK.”
Working with elite professionals, Shehneela and her team are looking to fill a gap in the market as she looks to encourage young players and women who feel they have no where else to turn.
In an exclusive conversation with DESIblitz, Shehneela said:
“My aim is to help the youngsters , especially within the Asian group, the ethnic group. Parents have been saying look we have a young kid, he’s talented, he’s got his scholarship, but they don’t know what to do with him after he’s eighteen.
“So it’s not just your professional players, it’s the ones who actually want to become professional players and who want to become the future, especially for the Asian community.
“I’m trying to get more of the Asian women involved as well.I know there are some Asian women who do actually play football.
“I think there is a team up in Sheffield. And if there’s more women who want to know how to become a football agent or do something what they’ve thought that they could never do is by all means contact me.”
Within a short space of time, Shehneela’s sporting work has been acknowledged on a global scale. In 2014, she won the Asian Women Achievement Award and the Overseas Pakistan Women Achievement Award.
There is no doubt that exciting and challenging times lie ahead for Shehneela and her company Platinum FA. After re-writing football history, her contribution will definitely go a long way in promoting greater diversity across the UK football scene.
With Shehneela Ahmed being an agent of change, its inevitable that some player will break through big time, opening the barriers for others to follow suit. And who knows one day their might be 2-3 players of South Asian heritage selected for the England squad.