Neel Sood – A Passion for Sports Development

It’s the March edition of our blog and we are fortunate to have our Ambassador Neel Sood give us an insight into his passion for sports development and the importance of giving back.

Being a Sports Development Officer, and providing opportunities for other people to become more active and involved in sport, is a career that I find fascinating and very rewarding. Working in the sports industry is probably a career choice that is seldom chosen in the Asian community; but I want to share my experiences on how my passion for sport and my true belief in its virtues, has led to me pursuing this choice of career. I believe that if others have the passion, it’s a great career to be in.

My earliest memory of sport was the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, when I was 5 years old, when I watched the men’s hockey final on old school VHS with my dad; Great Britain beat the then West Germany 3-1, and an obsession was born.  My dad had played hockey since his boyhood, and I promptly joined his club’s junior section, spending almost every Saturday going to watch him play and every Sunday playing myself. Cue years of negotiating with my parents to stay up late to watch any sport that was on TV.

As I grew up, and my interest in hockey grew (I represented the South of England at junior level), other pressures started to grow on me too. As a teen, I was in a similar position to most Asians, under pressure to perform academically. At a time where many drop off the sporting radar, with the blessing of my parents, I kept up with my sports, eventually breaking into the senior first team of my club, and continuing to compete at school and junior level. I feel it was important to do something to break the routine of studying, and would advise the same to others; I’ve been lucky enough in my current role to research that being physically active or playing sport can increase academic attainment and engagement at school.

I continued playing hockey through university and beyond, and continued to enjoy playing. I began to see a new part of sport that I’d not previously thought would be for me – coaching. The more I did, the more I became passionate about giving chances to younger players to play and get involved in hockey;  and this is where my enthusiasm for getting more people active came from. I found, even in the junior section of my hockey club, it was very rewarding to see others being active; something that prompted me to become even more active myself.

After several years of deciding what career choice to go into, I decided that sports development was the career for me. Though it is not as financially rewarding as other careers, I felt that seeing others reach their goals, and being more active, would be the reward I would have from my job, and so it has proved.

My experience in the industry has been entirely in my local area, which is one of the things I love about my current role, it’s putting something back into the area that I grew up in which is worth more than money to me I feel. I currently work at Get Berkshire Active, which is the local County Sports Partnership (the lead strategic body for community sport in the county), so I work entirely at grassroots level.

I have been fortunate to see some excellent sporting stories through the course of my job, but most of all I have been fortunate to have seen some incredible stories of sport changing people’s lives. You may have heard of famous stories of sports stars such as Clint Dempsey, Luol Deng and countless others who have used sports as a way out of unfortunate life situations and have gone on to make it to the top of their profession.

I have seen young people with broken lives and little future, take to sport to give them some focus, and make a success of themselves; either by going on to university when it seems they had lost interest in education, or in some other way. It’s the wider power of sport that I love to see in action, and which gives me great satisfaction in what I do.

If you are similarly passionate about sport, and getting people more active in sport or other activity, for the huge benefits it can bring to people’s lives;  then working in sports development is definitely a career worth thinking about as it is so hugely rewarding.

We would like to Thank Neel Sood for sharing his experience with us and look forward to his continual involvement with the foundation.

Follow Neel Sood on Twitter


Monica Sharma – One Passionate Football Player

We are kicking off 2014 in style and it gives us great pleasure to feature the first post of this new year, from Chesham United Ladies FC player Monica Sharma.……a passion from the start


Being brought up in Hounslow by humble grandparents and a supporting family, allowed me to develop an unconditional love and passion for the game of Football. Many footballers start their development at very early ages, however mine started from a somewhat late age of 12 years. I was very much influenced by my dad and uncles who played for a local team, J&S Hounslow, now currently Indian Gymkhana FC. The players and all those associated with the club became family and still are. Watching every game on weekends, come rain, snow or sun to then talking about it afterwards became a huge part of my weekly routine. I’m sure for many people this does not coincide with the norm of what a young Punjabi girl should be doing at my age, but that didn’t stop my family from sharing their own experiences with me.


……pushing the passion to the next level

The beginning of secondary school is where I really started progressing my passion for the game and made the decision of taking up football as a long-term commitment. Even thinking about it now, I am truly grateful to my PE teachers who put so much time and effort in me. I was trialing with Chelsea FC at 13 years of age, but lacked the experience and physicality, which was why I played for Middlesex County Girls to turn these weaknesses into strengths. I always believed in my ability but that’s not good enough, I needed someone else to believe in my potential too. It was then that I came across a coach at Brentford Ladies FC who weaned me in, and eventually becoming the youngest player at 16 years of age to be training with the first team.

Football has always been a passionate hobby, but education is still a priority of mine. I was able to go to University and complete a Science degree and at the same time play football with other like-minded quality players. I was training and competing alongside national level players which was exactly what I needed at this point, helping me progress into a player I am today.

During my last year of university I needed to decide where I wanted to take my football from here. I had a trial with QPR Ladies lined up and a Euro Championships tournament in Turkey to be looking forward to. Unfortunately, injuries got the best of me and it couldn’t have come at a worst time. I sustained a complete ACL rupture which pushed me back considerably for two years. Not being able to do what you love took its toll emotionally and I had to re-consider either starting again or packing football in and focusing on my career. Looking back, in a way this injury was a blessing in disguise. It allowed me to take some time out of football and focus on pursuing another dream of mine, of becoming a Sports Physiotherapist (which I am still working towards).  However, I couldn’t have left football forever.

……if at first you don’t succeed, try again!

Last summer is when I thought I’d give it one last push. Being slightly ambitious in my approach I went along to trial for QPR Ladies, Tottenham Hotspurs  Ladies and Chesham United Ladies FC. Again, I had to decide whether I wanted to play for a name, or develop as a player and play matches consistently, which was why I decided to sign up for Chesham United Ladies FC as a defender. Never had I thought I would be receiving the best of both worlds, playing in the FA Women’s Premier League and still pursuing my career and training as a Physiotherapist.

It requires a lot of hard work and determination, which isn’t easy but it’s definitely worth it. Currently, I have no intentions of giving up football as long as my knees and ankles stay intact. And who knows, maybe one day this small town Punjabi girl will achieve her dreams.

 We would like to Thank Monica Sharma for sharing her experience with us and wish her all the best for the rest of the season.

Follow Monica Sharma on Twitter

Follow Chesham United Ladies FC

An Insight into the “Hitman” Raj Hundal

Raj Hundal Shot

“….my dad told me son don’t be good but be great”

My father was a very good club Snooker player, he noticed my talent when I was 6 years old playing in my aunties restaurant where my cousin had a little table in the back store room and I also used to watch the likes of Alex Higgins and Jimmy White on TV and they inspired me greatly to be a cueist. My first game was Snooker and I was a World Class Junior but found American Pool when I was 17 years old and never looked back.

Q2My parents always supported me from a very young age and never put a limit on my imagination or potential, my dad told me son don’t be good but be great when I was only 7 years old. These words are still with me every time my hand touches a pool table and I hope they never leave me as long as I live.

Q3aI’m a very strong-minded individual and my mum used to say I was my own man before I was even a teenager, I had my heart set on doing something I would do it and failure was never an option. Luckily my mum and dad are far from narrow-minded and believed in me, this gave me further desire to succeed. I am very lucky to have the family I got, so loving and supportive.

Q4I won’t say I’m the best in the world but definitely I am among the world’s elite. There have been many issues I have had to overcome including moments of prejudice behaviour and acts against me as well as being politically held down for no reason and there was no one to help me or even listen to my argument. These acts made me work harder at my craft and only made me stronger, I’d like to thank the people who did this to me as they only poured petrol on fire and made me who I am today and when I see them now I’m nothing but nice to them as its them who must live themselves not me. Plus success is the best form of revenge, with success also comes a lawyer now that can’t really be beat so my words are now listened to by them with full attention naturally.


Q5The World Cup is a great event promoted by Barry Hearn’s Matchroom Sport, I always look forward to this event every year and my team has been getting stronger every year too in this event. Although the event was in London, team India had the most support by far as this is my home town. I represent India but still carry London on my back proudly, we are working on our events coming up this year and they will be in West London so expect a lot more glitz, glamour and fireworks. Also get your seats early as it will be a sold out show, especially when myself the ‘Hitman’ and ‘Rocket’ Ronnie O’Sullivan go head to head.

Hitman with Ronniejpp_wcop2013_M23_holland_india_058


Q6There is no typical day in all fairness, but the state of mind is always to improve in ones sport and field. This is a physical and mental journey but it’s important to have time to relax and unwind, it is very important to know how to switch off and recharge the batteries so you don’t burn yourself out and then you can peak during performance and big matches.

Q7I’ve had many highs and lows in my career, my highest would be winning the World Pool Masters and my lowest would be when in 2007 the IPT tour folded in USA as they really gave us a huge platform to perform from and the prize monies were great unlike today’s Pool economy sadly. I realised one does not come without the other hence my team has now gone into promoting themselves to fix this mess, you can call me the Golden boy if you like as I will play and put the promoters suit on as well.


Q8Many things motivate me, my family and friends for example. Naturally money motivates me too, it’s nice to have some fame and respect also for your talents and hard work. Although the one thing that motivates me more than anything is leaving a real strong legacy behind, I want people to remember me for doing something great not only for myself and my close ones but for any and everyone I ever touched on my journey through life. If I ever motivated a little kid to get up and fulfil his or her dream then I really achieved something I feel. I have the power to do this and this is a great gift, it’s my job and duty to give others hope always.


Q9I have many like Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammed Ali  but my all time favourite has to be Roger Federer simply because he’s just so classy on and off the tennis court and oozes talent beyond belief. He has a great personality and everyone loves him, there’s no Nadal fans in my house.

Q10Shoot to Kill” – After all I am the Hitman

Q11Two tables were close in a tournament and when we break at high speeds we kick our back leg up for power, the guy behind me had accidently kicked me in between my legs,  I had to go sit in my chair for a while and take a long break, thank god he didn’t break anything though.


Q12The same advice id give to any kid, work hard as only hard work pays in the end. Shoot for the stars and if you miss you might land on the moon, either way you will be out of this world and higher than most could ever imagine.


We at BASTF are exceptionally grateful to Raj Hundal for his time on answering our questions and giving our readers a fantastic insight into the world of Pool, his experiences and thoughts.  Follow Raj Hundal on twitter and keep up to date with upcoming events.

For more information on what’s going on in the world of Raj Hundal, please visit his website.

Thanks Raj.

WOMEN’S SPORT TRUST LAUNCH: Every dream begins with a dreamer

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Jessica Ennis (Heptathlon – GOLD), Gemma Gibbons (Judo – SILVER), Laura Robson (Tennis – SILVER), Nicola Adams (Boxing – GOLD), Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins (Rowing – GOLD) – just some of a few inspirational women who are changing the landscape of women’s sport forever.  Now recognised as not only Olympic heroes, but real sporting legends.  Continue reading


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. Continue reading

My Biggest Influence In The Game

My message is that if you can show great strength in character, everything is doable

Manisha Tailor – Ambassador for BASTF

How I fell in love with the ‘beautiful game’

Since the age of 8 years old, my twin brother and I together ate, drank and breathed football – which at times Biggest Influence_small got us into quite some bother at school! Our parents were not always impressed with the lack of attention spent on our school work, as for us, spending time organising lunchtime matches was far more important – primary school was awesome! Joint at the hip, quite literally, until secondary school that is (mum and dad intentionally sent us to separate secondary schools) – our love for the game both playing and watching continued. He however, influenced by my dad, became a Liverpool follower – they never did manage to convert me, I am a Gooner through and through!  My twin – the reason I fell in love with the beautiful game we know as football. Continue reading