18 October, 2023

Living an active lifestyle is one of the most effective ways to reduce your risk of breast cancer, and there are limitless ways to achieve this. Taking part in anything from a morning run to a yoga session could help you on your prevention journey.

However, some sports haven’t always been as inclusive for women. Assistant Head of Coaching at QPR, Manisha Tailor MBE, is one of the few women to hold such a role in the English professional game. Breast Cancer UK sat down with the football coach and author to discuss her mission to get more women involved in football and the health benefits that would come from this. 

 “Fortunately, I came from quite a sporty family who always encouraged me, but the same could not be said for wider society. I grew up in the 80s, and at that time, there was little place for young girls to play football. People didn’t see football as a sport for women back then.

“Even though I loved football growing up, I knew that becoming a professional would never be a reality for me. ”

“I played football throughout primary school, but when I got to secondary school, there was no team, and I had to stop playing regularly. I didn’t start playing football again until I was able to find a Sunday League team in my late 20s.

“Generations of women were deprived of the joy and health benefits of football. The weight of societal stigma and lack of pathways and opportunities to access recreational football robbed them of this.

“Thankfully, things have changed a lot since then! Just look at the success of England’s women’s team in the Euros and the World Cup. It’s proof that women have an appetite to take up sports and can succeed in the right environment. 

“Alongside going to the gym and morning jogging, football has been vital in helping me stay healthy.

“I have a hereditary heart condition in my family, and exercising regularly helps to reduce the risk of this impacting me in later life.”

The same could be said for my risk of breast cancer, too.  

“But you don’t have to play football at the highest level to reap its health benefits. It’s a great form of exercise because it encompasses running, jumping and agility.  There are so many different formats that cater to different body types, age groups, and ability levels. Most people know 11-aside football, but there’s also 5-aside, powerchair, blind, walking, and indoor.  

“There’s also a strong camaraderie amongst footballers. We all have each other’s back and encourage each other to be our physical best. From a mental health perspective, those are the perfect conditions to combine happiness and health. 

“When women think about which sport they will take up to help them get fitter, I want them to think of football. Football is for everyone.” 

If Manisha’s story inspired you and would like to learn more, read her amazing book ‘Dream Like Me: South Asian Football Trailblazers’. 

Start your breast cancer prevention journey today by taking our prevention quiz. 

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