Ashley Bosah Interview
October is an important time in the football calendar as we celebrate black history month. To mark this period of celebration and reflection, we will be speaking to a number of people of BAME backgrounds across the game to understand their journey into football, the challenges which they have faced and their successes.
Our first interview is with Tooting & Mitcham United’s joint-manager Ashley Bosah. Ashley took over The Terrors in June 2018 and helped guide the team to last season’s Specsavers Surrey Senior Cup Final. They have made a terrific start to the season, unbeaten in seven games and level on points with league leaders Westfield.
We sat down and spoke to Ashley ahead of their latest triumph, a memorable 1-0 FA Cup Qualifying victory against Dorking Wanderers of the National League South.
How long have you been involved with football?
“I’ve been involved in football since school days. I picked up my first role in coaching when I was 20, working in a community project in St. Matthews Estate in Brixton. That was my route into coaching. Since then I’ve taken on opportunities at different levels of football and worked my way up to where I am now.I think overall it’s been a 15-16 year journey.”
Why do you coach?
“I think initially it was always about working with young people. As a young person, my journey wasn’t so clear cut in understanding what it was I wanted to do with my life. So initially I got involved in youth work and that led on to coaching. [With] football being an interest of mine, I thought that football was useful as an engagement too [for young people]. Through that I was able to send a message of direction and purpose for young people – “what do you want to do with your life?”
Have you done any coaching qualifications?
“Yes, and without them I don’t think I would have been in the position which I’ve been given. I started with levels 1 and 2, did a youth module course of 1,2 and 3 and then developed that into my UEFA B. Ever since then, the experience has been my main learning tool really. Taking the structure the youth module gave me helped me to make clear points to different types of learners. The courses help you to structure your thinking and messages to different types of players.”
Why do you think there is an under-representation of BAME coaches in football?
“Society plays a big role in that. I thin perceptions and a lack of education. It’s a weird one because if you look out on the field there’s a lot of black players. But off the field, the officials don’t represent what’s on the field.I guess with time things are changing but I think it’s down to perception really. Ignorance and a lack of understanding.”
What state do you think the game is in at the moment in terms of being able to efficiently support people of colour?
“I know The FA is making a massive initiative in terms of educating first and foremost and trying to level out the playing field with BAME coaching funds and opportunities like that. That’s helping. I just think things come in time. As new generations grow up, society is becoming more multicultural and those people are taking up positions in power. And they will change the face of football. It’s about the new generation of thinkers to take on roles where they can influence things in that direction. Whilst people of an older mindset are still in those roles, it’s very difficult to shift that perception. It’s going to take time.
I think [representation] will inspire people that are thinking about it. Seeing somebody who looks like you on the touchline will then inspire them to go in that direction. One of the biggest role models for me in that respect were Gavin Rose and Junior Kadi at Dulwich Hamlet. He came from this level of football and is in the National League. What they’ve done was an example to me coming up as a young coach. That sort of representation will then help spark something in someone’s mind to think “okay, I can do this” or [that they] can break past this barrier to get [themselves] into a position where they feel they can do what they’re passionate about.”
Do you think there is currently a clear pathway from player to coach for those from BAME backgrounds?
“Pathways are there. It is dependent on the player. If the player really wants to do it then he has to go and seek it. It’s not just an automatic progression. You have to actively be around coaches, get involved in the coaching side of things and take things forward from there. I don’t think it’s a clear pathway. I think you’ve really got to want it. The type of people you surround yourself with, sharing opportunities – your social circles are a key part [of it].”
What advice would you give to people looking to start coaching, particularly those from BAME backgrounds?
“Get your badges, get your qualifications, do a lot of volunteering. Keep your eyes open for opportunities and get your coaching hours up. The more coaching hours you have, the more experience you’ll have and the more confident you become as a coach.
Know the pro game, know the non-league game, know the amateur game. Just appreciate football as a whole. Volunteering hours is a big chunk of it. You won’t go into roles that are going to pay you. Even coaching different sports opens your eyes as well!”
What are your thoughts on the racist abuse being directed towards BAME players on social media?
“There needs to be more verification in the process [of getting a social media account]. Maybe you scan a passport. You scan something electronically before you create an account so therefore it’s easy to track that abuse, and it’s not some anonymous person who deletes their account afterwards. [To be sure] that person gets sanctioned for it. When someone commits a crime there’s an investigation and you quickly find out who committed that crime. Social media allows you to be anonymous; send a message out then get off it.
But education is the biggest thing. Racism is down to ignorance or lack of understanding. [Some people] have been educated the wrong way and they need to be re-educated.”
Black History Month runs from 1st to 31st October and celebrates the enormous contribution Black Britons have made to our vibrant and diverse society.