Charlton’s Riteesh Mishra is proud to represent British South Asian coaches in elite football but says there is more work to be done to create a level playing field in the game.
Mishra is assistant to Karen Hills at Championship side Charlton Women, making him the highest-ranked South Asian coach in the elite game in England.
Chorley first-team coach and fellow British South Asian Irfan Kawri told Sky Sports News earlier this year that you need a “thick skin” to make as a coach in the English game. Mishra agrees and says he has needed resilience and perseverance on his journey in coaching.
“I’m very proud, for my family name and for myself, that I’m able to represent the community in women’s football and elite football in general,” Mishra told Sky Sports News.
“On the other hand, it’s quite disappointing that there haven’t been others – especially at the top end of the game – who have been able to break through. We are starting to see good progress, and I just hope the fact that I’m speaking to you can give younger coaches just the idea that you can make a profession in professional football.
“It is tough. But we can see there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes to help coaches like myself get to the top – and then it’s about our quality, our resilience and our endeavor to try and stay there once you get into those jobs, that’s really important.”
Mishra was one of the most promising players at Nottingham Forest’s academy when his career was cruelly cut short as a teenager due to injury. But rather than dropping out of the game altogether, Mishra turning to coaching, eventually linking up with Charlton in 2013.
Asked if there were any South Asian coaches he could look up to and try and emulate during his early coaching years, he said: “The short answer is no. Coaches, managers, players – my role models were all people who were who didn’t look like me.
“That was quite challenging because often you go through times within professional football, either as a player or as a coach, where you need somebody who really understands perhaps where you’re coming from and what you’re going through.
“That was tough, but at the same time, that help me build a lot of resilience. I was forced to expand my network and just be comfortable in professional football – that has also helped me growing up. It is tough and you need people to kind of work with you and support you through that journey. And I want to do that for those who are now going through the system.”
Mishra says he feels lucky to work in an environment where his talent can flourish, and hopes stakeholders across the board can redress a historical imbalance and come together to tackle South Asian under-representation in the game.
“It’s about equal opportunity, being treated like an equal and feeling like you’re an equal,” he said. “That’s really hard in professional football when you’re at the elite end.
“There’s a lot of pressure but I’m quite fortunate at a club like Charlton where I feel valued every day, it’s a club that I love. I’ve been here for a long time, I feel very close to a lot of people here and the values of the club are kind of rooted deeply in me.
“But as much as it is about me as a South Asian proving my worth and others who are South Asian proving you’re good enough, we also need people who are decision-makers, who are not from our community to understand that we need extra help, extra support, and we need those opportunities.
“We might need an extra helping hand to get there, so as much as it’s down to us to prove ourselves to South Asians. It’s also down to those who are in key decision-making positions within elite sport to really think about diversity and inclusion and make sure that everybody has equal opportunity to coaching positions and academies in the senior setup.
“And then if you’re good enough, hopefully, you have the equal opportunity to interview and get a job. And then it’s about you staying there and you know, you can stay there.”
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