Ahead of South Asian Heritage Month, West Brom's Mariam Mahmood opens up exclusively to Sky Sports News; the striker joined West Brom as an U14s player, and at 18, is now a first-team regular; Mahmood says West Brom has a special place in her heart, adding she hopes that she can inspire
Sunday 17 July 2022 11:32, UK
Mariam Mahmood says she is loving every minute at West Brom and says the club has a special place in her heart.
Mahmood is a product of the West Bromwich Albion RTC (Regional Talent Club) and cemented her place in the first-team squad last season under the tutelage of Jenny Sugarman, who took the reins at the club in the summer of 2021.
The 18-year-old striker is fast becoming a fans' favourite at the club and recently featured in West Brom's kit launch for the new season.
And England Colleges international Mahmood insists there is still plenty more to come from her.
"It feels like I've been here ages," Mahmood told Sky Sports News in her first interview with a major platform.
"I've been here since I was in the U14s and there is nothing I regret about coming here. It was the first academy side that I was at and I'm really happy here.
"This club has definitely got a special place in my heart. I've developed here as a person and a player, and now I am in the first team.
"I just want to keep getting better and score some more goals. I want to get fitter, sharper and I want to continue to improve my decision-making, but I think that will come with age as well, as I'm still quite young."
West Brom Women have returned to action in pre-season ahead of the new campaign, with Mahmood getting straight back in the groove by scoring in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Derby County earlier this week.
Mahmood played 87 minutes in the historic 2-0 win against Derby last season, which was the first West Brom Women's game ever to be staged at The Hawthorns.
"That felt good," Mahmood admitted.
"It's always nice to win, particularly against the big teams, but the opportunity to play at The Hawthorns was an amazing experience. It was really nice. Let's hope we get to do it again."
Mahmood, who is British-Pakistani, said she particularly enjoyed lining up at The Hawthorns against fellow South Asian heritage footballer Kira Rai, who plays for Derby.
She added: "I hope when other girls, particularly South Asian girls saw us play it sent out a message that they can do whatever they want to do, and they can be who they want to be.
"That is something that means a lot to me. I want to help inspire youngsters to come and play the game, and hopefully, some of them will one day get a chance to play in an amazing football stadium like we did."
The glaring lack of ethnic diversity at the elite end of the women's game has been brought sharply into focus at the Women's Euros, with England fielding an all-white starting XI in all three of their group games during the tournament.
Sky Sports recognised and began taking steps to address the lack of diversity in the women's game back in 2020 as part of its £30m commitment to tackle systemic racism and make a difference in communities across the UK.
Sky Sports has worked with dozens of current and former players from diverse ethnic backgrounds, and has tried to give them a platform to share their stories to try and capture the imagination to inspire the next generation of female footballers.
Talent has been identified and signposted directly to the Football Association and clubs as part of Sky Sports' unprecedented commitment to British South Asians in Football, which has also seen us devote a section of our website to raising awareness about South Asians in The Game, and create a dedicated rolling blog.
A number of elite and elite-potential female players and their families have also been supported with mentoring and access to off-field developmental opportunities.
Earlier this year, Sky Sports also partnered with the country's largest sports race equality charity, Sporting Equals, which has seen us support participation across the country, including devising the 'Seeing Is Believing' event for century-old west London sports club Indian Gymkhana.
For more stories, features and videos, visit our groundbreaking South Asians in Football page on skysports.com and South Asians in the Game blog and stay tuned to Sky Sports News and our Sky Sports digital platforms.
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