An interview with Rosie Kmita: one of England's first Asian female professional footballers
Rosie Kmita could become one of the first British Asian women to play professional football in England, having become the first player to sign professional terms with West Ham United Ladies earlier this year. She sat down for an interview with our resident blogger, Asif Burhan.
“If Asian girls see me as a role model that’s excellent, but I’d like to be seen as a role model for all young girls”.
When the UEFA Champions League restarts across Europe and swamps our TV screens this week, little attention will focus on West Ham United’s Rush Green training ground. Yet there, among the quiet suburban streets in East London, Rosie Kmita, a 24-year-old from Enfield, could set a significant landmark in English football by becoming one of the first British Asian woman to play in the top flight since the inauguration of the league in 2011, joining Reading Women’s Maz Pacheco.
So why has it taken eight seasons for our country to produce an Asian player good enough to play at this level? According to Kmita, “the barriers are slowly breaking as time goes on, as the women’s game evolves. There are natural barriers with Asian females in terms of religious reason or the stereotypes that come with women and playing football with regards to their families and things like that. So, of course there are barriers, but I’d like to think that slowly we’re breaking them down and if I’m able to help that then great”.
Kmita will not be the only one making a WSL 1 debut tonight, West Ham – the club she joined last October – were controversially elected to jump two divisions in the close season, leapfrogging, among others, Kmita’s old clubs Tottenham Hotspur and London Bees straight into the top division. A summer of extensive transfer activity including the recruitment of England defenders Claire Rafferty and Gilly Flaherty, Scotland striker Jane Ross and Champions League finalist Julia Simic have boosted hopes that far from merely consolidating their place in the league, the Irons could have a significant part to play in the title race.
“We’re very ambitious, why shouldn’t we be? We’ve got the personnel to do very well in this league. So although we’re a new set-up, and yes we have jumped two leagues, there’s no reason why we can’t go and compete. That’s the attitude we have going into training every single day and the mindset that we take into training is that we’re going to go and compete and why not? After the (Continental Cup) games that we’ve had already you can see that, you can see there’s no massive gaps here so I think we’ll be the underdogs and we all like that to be honest”.
After signing for a side in the Women’s Premier League last October, Kmita now finds herself propelled into the country’s first fully professional women’s setup and in June she was given the honour of becoming the first player in the club’s 27-year history to sign professional terms with the club. As well as the increased exposure on the pitch, Kmita has also had to adapt with a greater responsibility off it. “We have this thing called being a 24/7 athlete. You have to think about everything that comes with it so you make sure you’re hydrated, obviously eating well, every day, even if you’re not training, sleeping. . . Before, my football would kind of be just an additional extra in my day whereas now football is my day and then I revolve everything else around that. For example, if I’m knackered when I get home I won’t go anywhere, I will just go to bed. My mates know that now, whereas before you get pulled from pillar to post trying to do everything but I just don’t do that anymore. So yeah, my life’s changed”.
Off the field, along with her twin sister Mollie, Kmita signed up with Tongue Tied Media Talent Agency, whose stellar client list include team-mate Rafferty as well as England internationals Eni Aluko and Leah Williamson. “What we liked most about them, they are very female. They’re very supportive of that. We like being around strong females and that’s the reason why we went with them. In terms of pursuing other things, I don’t think it’s a secret that me and Moll don’t mind being in front of a camera to be honest. We don’t mind. I think with that we’ll probably look to get more into the presenting side of things and go in as a pair doing that. We’ll see where it takes us. I think it’s very important to put yourself in different environments and see what happens”.
For only the second time in their lives, her career journey will take her to a different enviroment to Mollie. Since being signed up by Tottenham Hostpur Ladies at the age of nine, the twins have played together at Spurs, Brighton and, until this summer, West Ham before Mollie re-signed for Gillingham Town. “Me and Moll are literally like best mates. I loved being a part of “the twins”. I never got offended by that. We were always very supportive of one another other. Obviously when she did well, I felt I did well and vice versa”.
Now working under new coach Matt Beard, Kmita hopes to learn from someone who led Liverpool to successive WSL title wins in 2013 and 2014. “Beardy just brings out the best in everyone. He naturally creates an environment where everyone is just allowed to be themselves. He loves people just being completely natural in their environment. I think that brings out the best in us because we feel comfortable enough in and around West Ham. Then also that transfers over to the pitch as well, we’re allowed to express ourselves. Also, he’s very clear about what he wants from us and we all understand our roles and responsibilities. I think in the past maybe it’s been unclear, just because you have less contact time, that’s what you have to consider as well. You only have two evenings in the week in the old clubs I’ve been at so roles and responsibilities are less clear. Here every day, if I’m not clear on something, bang, we get told the answer straight away”.
So what does the future hold for this young trailblazer she embarks on her first professional season, “10 years from now? As long as I’m happy, that’s the main thing. I want to be playing for as long as possible of course. To hopefully create the best memories with – because these girls become your friends you know – create very good memories with friends and see where football takes you”.