HOW REAL LIFE BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM GIRL REALISED HER FOOTBALLING DREAM
by ASJAD NAZIR
THERE has been a huge growth in women’s football all over the world and one of the main reasons is an exciting new generation of talents delivering winning performances.
One of the fabulous females lighting up football pitches is 21-year-old Sandeep Tak, who has gone from playing for Queens Park Rangers and Watford to signing for Tottenham Hotspur.
The Londoner has consistently delivered exciting performances in an attacking position and has her sights set on playing for England. Eastern Eye caught up with Sandeep to talk about her fantastic footballing journey, future hopes, advice she would give young girls and more.
What first got you connected to football?
Since I was able to walk, all I’ve ever known is football. My granddad and uncle are huge football fans. They would always have football on TV or my uncle was playing. I always had a keen interest in the sport, but was too afraid to get involved as I only ever saw boys playing. I think what connected me most was my love for watching the sport and always wishing I could play and see how it felt to be on the pitch with a team, wearing the boots and a matching kit.
When did you realise you were good and what led you to want to take it up as a career?
The first football team I played for was in my primary school. I was the only girl in the team and the only girl to ever compete throughout school football. In our last year of primary school, we had a tournament and I was the only girl participating. There were about 10 schools and I won the Best Player In Hackney Award. Winning that and feeling like I was the least likely person to do so really put into perspective how much potential I really had. It made it more real for me that I was actually being acknowledged as a good player. From this moment forward I knew that my one and only goal was to become the best player I could be.
How did your family react?
Since I was able to kick a football my family, especially my parents have been 100 per cent supportive of my football career and everywhere it has taken me. One of the biggest challenges for my family was coming to terms with me wanting to pursue my dream of doing a scholarship in the USA. They found it hard to let me go, but it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in my football career.
How did you get signed for Tottenham Hotspur?
After having a good season with Watford Ladies I felt it was time for a change and a new challenge. I contacted Tottenham Hotspur, who invited me down for a trial and after two sessions asked me to sign. I was beyond thrilled as were my parents. My dad was over the moon as his dream has always been for me to play for Tottenham and England. Playing for this club has put bigger targets in my sights and I will stop at nothing to accomplish them.
Tell us about the position and why you chose that.
Ever since I’ve been playing I’ve always liked driving forward with the ball and taking on players. Also, one of my favourite things is to do as many skills as I can on the pitch and ultimately score goals for the team. So this made it perfect for me to be a winger, which has given me the platform to showcase my talent. Another reason that really pushed me into choosing this position was because my idol Cristiano Ronaldo plays the same one. As I have got older and matured in my game I have been told that my composure and vision are also great aspects, so I have also been looking at the number 10 role. Ultimately, I am a forward player and can adapt my game to suit any of those positions.
What has been the experience of playing in a team with the other ladies?
I just started playing with Spurs ladies. However, I have been around the women’s game for many seasons. For example, two seasons ago I was playing at Notts County and training with England players such as Ellen White and Laura Basset who played for the first team. I was chosen on numerous occasions to go and train with the first team and while doing so managers and players told me I fitted right in and was a good player. This was exceptional to hear and has really put the belief in me that anything is possible if you set your mind to it and never give up.
How much has the women’s game grown?
The changes in the women’s game since I have been playing have been tremendous. It is great to see so much more exposure and attention being given to the women’s game and a lot more people are paying attention. From no broadcasting to the WSL being broadcast weekly on BT Sport and women having their very own Match Of The Day-type show is something to truly be proud of. I understand as a player I will reach the end of my career and the game still won’t be as big as we want it to be, but to know it’s heading in the right direction is positive. Also, to be able to play and increase awareness for younger girls and opening doors for them makes all of it worth it.
What are your hopes for the sport?
I hope that one day the ladies’ games will be on Sky Sports and stadiums will be sold out full of supporters for all games. Moreover, I hope that our country will stand behind and back our Lionesses as much as they do with the men’s England team. Finally, I hope that more money can be invested into the sport so women can play football and not have to worry about getting another job. Also, more money will allow improvements from grassroots football to the highest level for quality training, facilities and equipment.
Have you made a wish list for all the things you want to do in football?
There are three things that I want to accomplish in football, which is being able to play at the highest level, represent my country and play in front of a huge crowd every game. To wear that English shirt and represent England is the ultimate goal.
Who has been the most interesting person you have encountered on your football journey?
Retired Arsenal and England player, Kelly Smith.
Who is your favourite player of all time?
Cristiano Ronaldo is my idol and will forever be my favourite player, but Ronaldinho is the football god for me.
What has been your most memorable moment as a fan?
When Man United won the treble in 2008.
What has been your most memorable moment as a player?
I have two memorable moments: the first was winning the London youth games, which was a big accomplishment for me in my career. The feeling of winning that and being presented our awards by Rachel Yankey was an unbelievable feeling. The other memorable moment was playing in New York and my family watching on TV back in London.
What advice would you give other girls wanting to pursue a football career?
I would tell them to never give up and continue to pursue their career in football. You’re going to face many obstacles as a female footballer and it will get a lot harder, but if it’s something you really enjoy, don’t give up because it will always get worse before it starts to get better.
Have you seen Bend It Like Beckham and what did you think of it?
Yes and it is a film I can watch over and over because it basically shows my life, excluding a few parts. Being an Asian footballer I have come across racism almost every season and it was very difficult, but it has made me a very strong person and an even better player. I thought it was a great film and showed how hard it is for Asian female footballers to try to pursue a career. Although my parents have been supportive since day one I know many Asian girls that have had the troubles Jasminder did in the film.
How much training do you have to do?
Almost every team I have been at provides two training sessions weekly and then we have our game day. However, in order to be fit and prepared for the games we are advised to do our own training as well. Therefore, I go to the gym every day that I’m not at training or don’t have a game day.
How much are you about girl power?
I think it is important for a woman to be independent and show that she is capable of anything. However, I also believe that women should be women and own it. It’s not always about being better than men, it’s about being our own great.
If you could ask any footballer a question who would it be and what would you ask them?
I would ask Cristiano Ronaldo to train me.
What do the guys you know think about you being a footballer?
All the guys I know are very supportive of me playing football and believe I have the potential to go very far.
What are your big passions away from football?
Graduating from university and getting a job I really enjoy in the corporate world. Also, keeping fit and having a body that I can be proud of.
What inspires you?
Cristiano Ronaldo inspires me, as well as knowing that I can make a difference for Asian female footballers.
Why do you love football?
Because my life wouldn’t make sense without it! I live and breathe the beautiful game. Also, having my agents that I have now with Inventive Sports Agency has given me so much exposure and a much bigger platform to share my story and keep me motivated to continue chasing my dream.