You may ask, how did someone from the classroom teaching end up coaching?
Areshma Prasad’s journey to the pinnacle of football has been unconventional but inspiring.
“I can’t believe I have been given the opportunity to pursue my career in football coaching,” Prasad shared to Fiji FA Media.
The 40-year-old had a passion and love for football but never dreamt she would become a coach thanks to Fiji Football Association for the initiative in empowering women in football.
Areshma is a schoolteacher by profession and was one of three female participants who attended the OFC/MA’s Grassroots Coaching Certificate Course at the Fiji FA Academy in Suva last weekend.
“I have been interested in football since my childhood when I used to watch my brothers and their friends play near our house in Wailevu, Labasa,” she said.
“Sitting and watching them play was my hobby because during those days we as girls were not allowed to play so we would just sit and watch them play and fell in love with football.
“I didn’t have a chance to play but it was always in my mind to play football one day but didn’t I know I will be doing coaching.
“My love and passion never stopped though I started my tertiary education and then to teach and I was fortunate to have a husband who is also a football player and had a passion and love for football so it never stopped.
“After a few years away from football due to my work and family commitments I was happy to be given an opportunity to manage our school team and be back in the sport I love.
“From the school team with the support of our head of PEMAC teacher Sanjeev Mani, I was given an opportunity to manage the Nasinu under-16 girls team in the Digicel U16 Girls Youth League which consists of many of my students from Nasinu Secondary School.”
From such a rather surprising introduction to the game, it quickly took hold of Areshma and ultimately catapulted her to the grassroots coaching certificate course.
“A lot of it was dedication,” she explained of her rapid rise to football coaching.
“Once I found football, it was a case of ‘I love this, I’m so passionate about this, how do I make this my career and be as close to it as I can be?’.
“It has been a lot of studying, a lot of work behind the scenes. I look at my first coaching course and I didn’t know anything. I was like a deer in the headlights essentially.
“The three-day course equipped me with a lot of knowledge of grassroots coaching which is the basic learning of football.”
She freely admits she loves her new role as a coach, saying “I’m loving, being able to learn a lot during the course.”
“I love coaching,” she said. “It will never be replaced in my heart because you have the ability to change children’s lives and watch them grow and develop over a period of time.”
As for her own journey and advice for anyone potentially keen to follow in her footsteps, Areshma urges people to “just go out and take a chance”.
“I hope that I can help influence people, whatever that means. At the end of the day, I am just an average person,” she said.
“I’ve done this, but it doesn’t mean that someone else couldn’t. It’s just about the steps that you chose to take as an individual.
“I changed my life at the age of 40 when I had the opportunity.
“Sometimes we get so stuck in the ways that we don’t want to push ourselves. There is no straight line to success — you may have to drop down or move sideways — but on the other side of that, it’s so beautiful and so worthwhile.” Areshma aims to continue taking the pathway of coaching and achieving A-License and coaching a top-level team.