Asha Rashid set to join top club in Turkey Women’s Premier League

Striker Asha Rashid of Mburahati Queens F.C. and the Tanzanian women’s national football team (Twiga Stars) arrived Saturday in Istanbul, Turkey to join Atasehir Belediyespor Women’s Football Club, who play in the top flight of Turkish women’s football.  If Asha passes a medical examination and receives a work permit from the Turkish authorities, she will sign a one and a half season contract with the club.  Atasehir Beladiyespor are currently ranked number one in the league, and if they can hold that position until the end of the season in May, they will earn a sport in the 2011/12 UEFA Women’s Champions League.

FIFA agent Ahmet Goksel Arici (a former Turkish national team goalkeeper) came across videos of Asha and her Twiga Stars teammates while browsing football videos on Youtube.  He forwarded the links to Atasehir team manager Murat Ulku, who had been looking for speedy forwards to bolster his team’s attack.  Immediately impressed by the Tanzanians’ skills, Ulku sent invitations to Asha and her JKT Queens striker Eto Mlenzi.  Within a week, Asha had a Turkish visa and was on a plane to Istanbul.  Eto hopes to follow her soon, pending permission for a leave of absence from her Tanzanian club, JKT Queens.

The Atasehir players warmly welcomed Asha, who is living in a room in the team’s private clubhouse.  She smiled and laughed with her teammates while eating her first dinner with the club.  “My team has welcomed me kindly,” she said.  “We don’t speak the same language, but we are already friends.  The players are very united.  I am very happy.”

On Sunday afternoon Atasehir played against the number three ranked team in the league.  Asha is ineligible to play until she officially registers with the Turkish Football Federation (T.F.F.) but she warmed up with the team and impressed them with her shooting skills.  They did fine without her, thumping the competition with a 5-1 victory to maintain their position at the top of the Women’s Premier League table.

Though she has yet to play a match, Asha has already garnered a following among the Atasehir fans, who chanted and sang her name during the match.  They have high hopes for their potential new striker.  And Asha plans to deliver.  “I believe in myself, and I think I can really help this team… I’ve seen the football here now, and I know that it is nothing to be afraid of.”

Asha’s path to being noticed via Youtube points to interesting changes that are happening in football business.  No longer do agents have to travel to faraway countries to see players in the flesh, nor do players have to pray for their single chance to play in front of an international scout.  Players who want to be noticed can advertise their skills on the internet and let the world be the judge.  We can hope that Asha will be the first in a long line Tanzanian players who follow this new path to their football dreams.

 (credit: Nisha Ligon). [email protected]

The Atesehir players welcomed Asha warmly

Asha watches TV with her new teammates.

Asha in her room at the team’s club house

Asha with Team President Sadik Kayhan

The new striker meets some of her young fans

And boards the team bus post-match

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