People in the Asian community generally see the disability before the ability
Manisha Tailor – Ambassador for BASTF
Continuing with the theme of ‘Disability Sport’, this month I spoke to someone, like me, who has a tremendous amount of passion for the beautiful game – football. Rikin Shah is a 23 year old young man who suffers from a condition called Muscular Dystrophy. Despite his condition, he has been involved in football for many years as both a player and coach alike. Since 11 years of age he was involved in disability football, this is mainstream able bodied football just played by disabled people. Unfortunately, a few years later, his condition meant that he was unable to play.
But, his passion and love for the game, combined with great courage and mental strength, ensured that he continued his involvement. At just 15 years old, he attained the Junior Sports Leadership Award. For Rikin, this gave him fuel to move up the coaching ladder and is currently a UEFA B Licensed coach, which is a tremendous achievement! He is also a very keen Wheelchair Football player and is currently focusing on the playing aspect of the game.
Rikin is fortunate that he has received full support from his family, “they know that I love my football and have always supported me whether that’s in coaching or playing…they know that I wouldn’t miss my football for the world!” Considering the stigmatism attached to having a disability, and also being Asian, I wanted to find out Rikin’s views on potential cultural barriers impeding Asian people to take up disability sport. “Having a disability and being Asian is very hard. People in the Asian community generally see the disability before the ability”. This is in addition to how sport is viewed as a profession where Rikin went on to say, “wanting to pursue a career in football is just not the normal thing to be doing in the Asian community, and having a disability”.
Rikin’s life philosophy is always do what YOU believe in, and NOT what a community thinks you should be doing. He feels that this is the cause of the lack of Asian representation within the game, especially from a disability perspective, whether it is: a player, coach, manager or backroom staff.
The recent London 2012 Paralympic Games were amazing for Disability Sport. I asked Rikin about the legacy and impact it would leave, “I think the world took note of what disabled people could do and can achieve with hard work and determination. Many asked me whether I had competed in it but unfortunately my sport is not in the Paralympics yet”. As a sportsman, the Paralympics has encouraged Rikin to want to represent his country and become the best athlete that he can be. He is also driven to want to become a better coach in the future. His current goal is to resume football coaching with his dream of lifting the World Cup with the able bodied England 1st team.
Rikin has an incredible story and has made leaps and bounds in a sport that poses many challenges – he is an asset to the game of football and a true role model. The motivation and courage he is displaying is second to none, those that read his story will certainly be inspired. “If I was to give a message to people, I would say don’t judge someone because they have a disability, judge them on what they have achieved in terms of qualifications and results. At the end of the day we are just like everyone else but just have to cope with a disability in our day to day life. Persistence does pay off, maybe not in the short term but in the long term”.
I would like to thank Rikin for taking the time to speak with me about his journey and experiences in disability football. To keep up to date with Rikin’s progress follow him on twitter @rikin11
The above article was first printed in Asian Express in April 2013
We would like to Thank Manisha Tailor for sharing her story on our blog!