You can't blow the whistle on this lady

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Ashikin Hashim, 25, is known for getting exclusive interviews with international footballers. Under her own brand name, Futbolita, she is a sports correspondent and presenter for Yahoo! Southeast Asia and Starhub TV. She is also one of the few female FIFA Players’ Agents.

I pointed out that a recent survey showed that only a few women make it to the boardroom. She laughs and says to me, “But women today are venturing into new avenues in their careers, unlike the past.

“Women are beginning to realise that there are more opportunities for them. Not just as a FIFA agent, there are fantastic female referees, psychologists, physiotherapists and executives working in sports. They are really good at what they do. Karen Brady [former managing director of Birmingham City Football Club] is a huge inspiration,” she said.

“Women are exploring more because they are beginning to realise it’s important to take risks early in your life, at the start of your career.

“I think making mistakes while you are very young is the best thing you can do. It allows you more time and experience to go further in your career early on. So it is a win-win situation,” she said.

How does she do it? She tells me of a recent experience at work.

It was a hellhole of a media scrum. Journalists. Cameras. Screams. Footballs ready to be autographed.

Spanish footballer, dreamy-eye Fernando Torres walked by. More racket from the media scrum. She leaned forward and caught him for a quick 60-second interview before anyone else did, mainly because she was the loudest and spoke fluent Spanish.

Have you ever faced gender biases and discrimination at your workplace?

Discriminated? Yes, of course! When I was younger, I think it was harder for people to take me seriously on the football pitch. People assumed I was one of the footballers’ girlfriends.

I was told to leave the football pitch once because a few high-ranking rival media outlets were unhappy that I was interviewing the teams and players directly. They did not like the fact that I got the interviews before them.

Also, I was told to ‘leave rooms’ where I supposedly did not belong, according to them. I was told that I ‘was not good enough’ as a football journalist like I did not know my facts about football.

There was one incident at the beginning of my career. There was a media junket but the organisation sent another male journalist instead of me even though I could speak Portuguese well (the particular footballer’s native tongue). I cried the whole night after that.

When I went to take my test last year to qualify as a FIFA Players’ Agent, some of the other male applicants asked if I had entered the wrong room. I said, ‘No’ with an indignant look on my face and sat down. I took my test and passed it.

Do you think the pressure of the ‘biological clock’ affects you?

Yes, things like marriage and babies. Personally I feel the pressure of the ‘biological’ clock ticking, and the pressure of being a baby maker affects all women — no doubt about that. There is always the question of ‘when are you going to settle down with kids and house and husband?’

How do you handle the gender role pressures?

In all fairness, I think it is normal across the board. Many girls face the pressures I face. I do not feel like I am losing out on anything by choosing to chase a dream. I think it is important to strike a balance between work, your relationships and self-time, and once you do, you will realise that you have everything you could ever need.

But with all that said, gender roles still play a huge part in male-dominated areas such as sport. The area I am going into (FIFA agents) is not an easy one. I like working against prefixed notions of what women should or should not do in football. I like challenges and working against popular opinions, although maybe it might deter others. The point is that it should not. If you feel in your gut that what you’re doing is right, go for it!