Editor’s Note: This article forms part of a series of content being produced for Al Jazeera in association with the launch of its new football podcast, Game of Our Lives.
Rimla Akhtar is many things to many people.
As a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Chair of the Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation (MWSF) and the first Muslim woman to sit on the Football Association Council, Akhtar has helped to shape the state of play in UK sport for more than a decade, inspiring many others along the way.
But it’s within British football, in particular, that Akhtar has had her most significant influence both on and off the pitch.
Having captained the British muslim women’s football team in 2005, Akhtar has progressed to hold a number of leadership positions in the game after hanging up her boots.
Those roles include her membership of the Asian and Muslim Women and Girls Working Group and the Referees Diversity Action Group.
Undoubtedly, Akhtar plays an active part in what David Goldblatt, the host of Al Jazeera’s new football podcast Game of Our Lives, describes as the “demand for inclusion” in the game.
Following Goldblatt’s latest episode, Playing the game, wearing hijab, Al Jazeera spoke to Akhtar about why she fell in love with the world’s most popular sport and what needs to be done to widen participation in the beautiful game.
Al Jazeera: What inspires you to want to change football?
Rimla Akhtar: Sport