Bend it Like Ameera
Let me tell you about Ameera.
An intelligent, hilarious, extremely ambitious and talented athlete who knows how to make her mark. That is Ameera Seiyad. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Ameera for several years now and I wish I could make all of you meet her in person because my words won’t do justice to the charisma and personality that beams out of her.
Ameera started playing soccer at the age of 5. She shares with me the story of how this happened. Ameera’s family did not have a television set for a very long time and her Dad always promised to buy Ameera and her siblings a TV if they went outside and played sports. “Every day, we would go outside, we would pay basketball, soccer, hockey, tennis, we would play anything, and after a year, none of us even brought up ‘Dad we want a TV’. We fell in love with the outdoors and playing sports.” Ameera’s father soon noticed her talent, decided to enroll her in a recreational soccer league and the rest is history.
“It’s so nice to especially see the little Muslim girls running up to you, because they can relate. They feel comfortable approaching you”.
Once a week, Ameera tries her best to engage children around her with soccer. She goes to a park in the community and does a couple of pickups, which brings her a crowd of kids who are mesmerized by her talent. “It’s so nice to especially see the little Muslim girls running up to you, because they can relate. They feel comfortable approaching you”. Ameera lives in Flemingdon Park, an area of Toronto with a dense Muslim population.
When we asked Ameera about her future plans regarding athletics, she didn’t say “I want to be the best soccer player in the world”. She had a very simple answer: “I want to teach my nieces and nephews how to play soccer”. Ameera is all about giving back. She feels it is crucial to involve kids in sports at a young age and to share with them people whom they can look up to, and relate to. If I was a 8 year old kid who saw Ameera with a soccer ball at the park often, I would go to the park just so I could watch her and learn from her. Heck, I would even do that as a 21 year old adult… If I lived even remotely close to her.
Did I mention Ameera is a phenomenal story teller? And I love stories. If you ask Ameera one question, you will get 50 answers. Answers to questions you knew you always had but could never put into words.
When Ameera got scouted at 9 years old and had the chance to play Rep soccer for free with Leaside, she remembers standing out, considering the colour of her skin and the fact that she would be covered head-to-toe, with tights under her shorts and a hijab over her head. And it felt uncomfortable.
Ameera says she could’ve easily taken off the hijab, she was only 9, but she didn’t because even though she didn’t understand it fully at the time, she knew it was a part of her identity.
She specifically remembers the time when her dad, a hefty man, with a big beard and Jubba showed up to her first game and watched his daughter play. He was also the odd one out amongst a large group of already befriended soccer moms. Ameera recalls the funny looks they received on the first day, compared to the very different hard-earned look of respect and acknowledgement they received at the end of the season, after witnessing Ameera’s talent. She shares that by the end of the season, her dad was the snack man; he had the oranges, the granola bars, he brought Kulfis and freezies. “He didn’t care, he was enjoying it so much.”
This was a memory Ameera says she will cherish forever. It is what instilled in her the perseverance to continue playing soccer, and allowed her to embrace the fact that she will always stand out on the field, and she will always look different. It is up to her to move forward from it and use her experiences to educate and empower others so that these very experiences won’t stop other 9-year old girls from pursuing their athletic talent.
When we were taking pictures of Ameera to share on the blog, we noticed only one of her socks was rolled up. “That is my swag, I only roll one up”, she laughs. Her purple and gold socks, represent her university Wilfrid Laurier, where Ameera partakes in competitive soccer and field hockey intramurals. She demonstrates to us how to use the ball and the hockey stick in field hockey and explains there is lots of stoppage and turnovers, but it “comes clutch” because it gives players a break. Her soccer team has won the championship two years in a row. Her team is made up of girls that she met at soccer tournaments while she played at her high school Marc Garneau CI, and later reconnected with after finding out they would all be going to the same school.
Ameera captained her soccer team in high school for four years. Every year, she would be part of at least two teams, sometimes three, although that was technically against the rules. “Perks of having coaches love you,” Ameera smirks. The fall semester would consist of basketball or field hockey, and the summer semester, of course, soccer… sometimes accompanied by ultimate frisbee or softball. Calling Ameera an exceptional leader and phenomenal athlete is an understatement. She is so much more.
I could listen to Ameera talk forever. Along with being intelligent and inspiring, she is a hilarious person to chat with. I am beyond grateful that I get to share Ameera’s story with you all. If you ever get a chance to speak with Ameera, I warn you, be ready to have your mind blown away. Ask her questions, she has got tons of stories and opinions to share, all of which if I had included it all in this blog post would’ve made you think I was obsessed with her.
I think I already am.
"I love Ameera's drive for sport. You can hear the passion in her voice and see it in her eyes when she shares her experiences in sport. Throughout her life, she has been determined to not let barriers hold her back. As well, Ameera is a true sport leader, as she has been actively involved in coaching and promoting girls sport and physical activity within her community. She is confident, driven and competitive. A coach's dream!"
- Lauren Williams
If you want to get in touch with Ameera Seiyad, you may reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please leave a comment below with any feedback.
We will be posting weekly blogs featuring more inspirational and dedicated hijab-wearing athletes- Muslimahs with all kinds of different backgrounds, sports, and stories. Stay tuned for weekly episodes!