Keshika Subbarao is bent on making her mark in the male-dominated field of football, regardless of what the naysayers say.

The 27-year-old coaches 25 young male players in the FC Kuala Lumpur youth football club.

The Star spoke to Keshika, who despite her years of coaching experience and certifications under her belt, said that she still feels discriminated against as a female coach.

"Even though I rarely receive discrimination from the players, I have been on the receiving end of it from some of the players' parents. They aren't used to seeing, or have never experienced having, a female coach.

"In the past, there were complaints as some parents did not want a woman to coach their child," she told the daily in an e-mail interview.

In addition, Keshika had also encountered negative remarks from condescending peers, who had tried to bully her out of her job, as they believe women should not be involved in football in any capacity.

Thankfully, none of this have deterred Keshika from being involved in football, which she is passionate about.

She aspires to train football players who can represent the country at international events.

"Football was the first sport I was exposed to as my father was a semi-professional footballer. As I grew older, I really liked the competitiveness of the game and the significant impact of the sport," she said.

Keshika started a blog on football when she was just 14. She went on to pursue her A-Levels in England, beore taking her law degree at Anglia Ruskin University in East Anglia. She has also worked as a part-time football writer at sports media platforms like Britain's Football Talk, Oxford United Football Club, and Italy's Forza Italia Football, among others.

She, however, knew that she wanted to do more than write about football - she wanted to coach it. She started shadowing coaches and managers to learn more about coaching.

Since returning to Malaysia with a law degree in 2015, Keshika has volunteered as a youth football coach for the Asian Football Confederation’s Protect The Goal campaign to raise awareness of HIV, and also designed and organised youth football programmes for underprivileged children in orphanages around Klang Valley.

Last year, she was recognised as the Women’s Aid Organisation’s sports ambassador.

Keshika believes it is time women and girls started engaging in sports more to challenge the existing gender norms and roles in the society, as well as to promote self-confidence, among other values.

"Sports provides a space in which women and girls can renegotiate concepts of femininity and masculinity, challenge stereotypes that label women as weak and inferior, and demonstrate to their communities what they are capable of achieving," she said, further expressing hope that there will be more policies and female decision makers who will be able to enact the much-needed changes.

According to her, women can excel in any field, including football, as long as they have the talent, grit, and determination.

"My advice is to just go for it and enjoy the process of learning and being part of the sport. Don't let negative oponions influence your joy as you experience this wonderful sport."

Source & Photo source: The Star