The Sidelines: Singapore's first female players' agent - Futbolita, Ash Hashim

Already a well-established journalist in the football world, Ash Hashim, better know as Futbolita is breaking new grounds in the cutthroat world of player transfers
Founded in 2008, Futbolita has become an established name in football, carefully branding itself as a portal that offers a female perspective of the world's most popular sport.

The website is the brainchild of Singaporean, Ashikin Hashim who has interviewed some of the biggest names in football, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Xavi and David de Gea.

Not contented with her journalistic career, Ash, as she is better known, has recently branched out to become a players' agent after acing the Fifa exams. A few weeks shy of turning 25, the petite lady of Welsh, Pakistani and Arab descent, spoke to Goal Singapore about becoming Singapore, and possibly Asia's first female players' agent.

What made you decide to become a player's agent?

I just felt that it was a natural progression to become a players' agent because I had been in contact with many of them for a while now, and I want to be able to do more for football. Not just with projects involving players or clubs, but with the youths, women and men of the world who have a lot of talent and potential. Representing players is also an extension of Futbolita's brand, where we're fun football insiders coming from social, personal and cultural point of view.

Also, we want to change the way people look at Players Agents. Sure, many of them have a bad reputation, but most of them are just doing their job - and many of them have never even heard of Gareth Bale's ridiculous transfer fee to Real Madrid!

What were the requirements you had to meet to be a player's agent?

There's the compulsory Fifa exam, which is extremely tough and I was told repeatedly that there was only a 6% pass rate. You have to be well-versed in the world governing body's football laws, and not question them extensively (like you may tend to do all the time as a journalist!) and Fifa was very strict about your background; no criminal record, links to organisations or anything dodgy like that. Then you'll need to get specific insurance and sign an agreement with your local association where you took the exams.

So how did you prepare for the exam?

10 hours of intense studying the materials every day, note-taking, tutorials and conversations with Fifa agent friends and mentors across the world. Also, when I was in Turkey, Middle East and other parts of Europe, I made sure to listen to as much advice as I could from officials at the FAs there. You have to get yourself into the mentality of a lawyer representing a player, as opposed to a journalist or a person who asks the players the questions. And never try to question the laws, or you'll get confused! I came from an arts background in university and we learnt that absolutely anything is debatable, so this was quite difficult, as you can imagine!

Also, I had to read a lot of case studies and law books recommended by my friends. The rules and calculations can be extremely confusing, so I would freak out sometimes and forget bits and pieces but I think the conversations I had (and meditation!) really helped in the end.

And how did you find the exam?

They weren't the stuff of nightmares, thankfully! I was in a room of international agents (who were renewing their license, according to Fifa requirements), lawyers and former players, and it was hilarious listening to them bantering about their 'deals' before the exam. I was a little nervous at first because I was the only woman from a media background, but it was also funny because you realise that everyone is there for the same reason, to do their bit for football.

How did you feel when you found out you passed the exams?

I was over the moon and really thankful, especially since I do not come from a legal background and it was my first law exam! But this 'victory' honestly belongs to my family, best friends, mentors and loved ones and the people who have supported and believed in Futbolita. It would have been impossible otherwise!

So what's in store now? Where are you going to be active, and what kind of players are you going to deal with?

There's a lot in store! We will be very active in the Asian market (probably the Middle East as well) and Europe, because those places are where we generate the most interest. We'll be growing Futbolita and hopefully taking it in an exciting direction.

Also, I think it is important to treat players not just as business transactions, but as human beings with families to feed and an important destiny to fulfill. Not every one is meant to be a professional footballer, but they should be given an equal opportunity to develop and grow themselves. I am pretty sure that if you look at the Middle East, for example, they have an pool of amazingly talented players but because of their current domestic situation, it's not easy for them to get out. As for the women who want to play, cultural and religious barriers have always been a challenge, and that's where we come in!

How do you feel about being one of the few female agents active? What kind of challenges do you anticipate?

I feel very blessed, but with that said, it's no different whether you're a male or female agent because in the end, your actions speak louder than trivial factors such a gender or differences. 

People would expect us to deal with female players, which is natural for us, of course, but we will also be representing male players. Women are naturally more nurturing and understanding, so I think that's an advantage for us because we aren't too straight-laced and don't just look at things from a business point of view; we tend to be a lot more maternal when thinking of solutions to issues or problems. And in football, this aspect is often overlooked but extremely important as well. Unfortunately, money and greed has tarnished certain aspects of football.

As for challenges, the awesome schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai once said, "I'm not afraid of anyone" and that's the kind of mentality we'll be taking to face the many challenges to come. We're ready!

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