Cricket West Indies Media Manager, Naasira Mohammed, is a proud, feisty, hijab-wearing Muslim who is breaking glass ceilings living her dream career.
“Trini to the bone,” as Mohammed describes herself, became the first woman to be appointed Media Manager of the men’s team in 2018, breaking a 93-year-old record.
In her current position as Communications Executive and Media Manager for both the men’s and women’s teams, Mohammed is hoping to continue building on the foundation that she has set with years of knowledge and experience gainded.
Mohammed is on tour in South Africa as the Momentum Proteas will host the West Indies in a bi-lateral series starting on Friday, 28 January.
Speaking with Selina Munsamy, Mohammed chats about growing up in a sport-loving family and shares advice to young girls who aspire to be in sport media.
Naasira, thank you for taking time out to chat to us! Please tell us about yourself.
My name is Naasira Mohammed, I am from the Twin Island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Currently, I work as a Media and Content Officer at Cricket West Indies. I am “Trini to the bone” as the saying goes, a Caribbean woman to my core. I love our food, our culture, our vibes. I jokingly tell people that I’m blessed to be born in the geographic location that I did. We are a diverse loving people. I am a hijab-wearing Muslim who works in sports, I have loved sports all my life.
Being Muslim shapes a lot of who I am. Patience and helping others are two of my core values. Meeting and conversing with new and interesting people are one of my favourite past times. I enjoy going out and having a good time with my friends, always ready for “a lime” as the Trini saying goes. My favourite genres of music all originate in the Caribbean, namely calypso, soca and reggae. My aim is to always push boundaries and prove people wrong.
Where does your passion for sport come from?
My passion for sport comes from my extended family. Growing up with a lot of cousins around, we were always playing some sport and cricket was usually first choice. The street I live on back home in Trinidad, consists of 95% of my relatives, so during school holidays there were maybe 20-25 of us home at the same time. We played cricket on the road, as it’s a private road so there wasn’t much thoroughfare traffic. My uncles would make us wickets with pieces of scrap wood, or we’d use old tins we found. It’s too many to count but I can tell you we broke a lot of windows and light bulbs on the houses around us, but my aunts and uncles would never get upset, they’d just replace it and say to be more careful next time.
I grew up around a lot of aunts who were into cricket and even my grandmother. Back in the days, we only had Test and ODI cricket and my grandmother is a West Indian diehard, so whenever there was a match on, that’s what we would be watching on the television. One of my aunts took me to my first cricket match, it was a Test match at the Queen’s Park Oval in 1996 between the West Indies and England. I got to see Curtly Ambrose in action for the first time and I was just in awe.
Please tell us about your sport journalism career.
This was pure coincidence. I was looking for a job and I went to the TV station to interview for the position of a traffic clerk and while talking to the HR Manager, she asked what my passion was and when I told her that I loved sport, she said she could tell because my eyes and enthusiasm shone when I spoke about it. I didn’t get the traffic clerk position, but I did get a call back for an interview for a Junior Sports Journalist position which I got and as they say, the rest is history. I’ve been very fortunate to cover some exciting stories, met a lot of people, some of whom I’m still friends or acquaintances with. In my first year on the job, I won Employee of the Month twice, both for cricket stories that I covered. I did features and news stories on the CPL which won me my first award then I covered the Cricket All-Stars Tour in New York.
Growing up I wanted to be a lawyer, but I always had a secret yearning to be involved in the sport industry and when the opportunity for the sport journalist position presented itself, I knew it was my calling.
My biggest assignment was covering the Netball World Cup in Sydney Australia in 2015, as Trinidad and Tobago were participating. It was the longest flight I’ve ever been on by myself, and I had to record and write my stories myself to send back home for the nightly news. It was SCARY but FUN!
In 2018, Cricket West Indies broke the 93-year-old history and appointed you as the first female Media Officer for Cricket West Indies Senior men’s team. How significant was this appointment was for you and what it meant for women in sport?
Honestly, this was like a dream come true. The West Indies team is the ONLY team I support unwaveringly; win, lose or draw from the time my memory can recollect. It’s in my top five memories and achievements. For me it meant that I could show other young women in the Caribbean that the glass ceiling can be shattered, because in the Caribbean, we still have a patriarchal society where women are overlooked for employment and promotions in certain industries and sport is probably at the top of the list.
The opportunity at Cricket West Indies started an incredible journey for you. What were you hoping to achieve when you joined?
What I hoped then and still currently building on, is the prominence of coverage for the West Indies Women’s team. Some people in the Caribbean probably didn’t even know the West Indies had a women’s team until they won the ICC T20 World Cup in 2016. I jokingly tweeted to the then President that I would love to be their Media Officer, should they ever be looking for one, everything snowballed from there and 1.5yrs later I was working at CWI and with the Women’s team. Being attached to the team, CWI has seen a growth in coverage not only of their international matches but also domestic women’s and girls’ cricket, as I also cover the age-group tournaments. That increased coverage of women’s cricket in the region is a personal win that I can proudly say I contributed to.
What does a day in your job look like?
Whew, where do I start. It’s basically the same routine for both teams but the men’s team has more duties to carry out. If there is morning practice, breakfast is eaten very early to give myself enough time to digest as I get motion sickness from the bus ride, I also must sit in one of the first three rows on the bus to prevent any embarrassing scenarios. At training, I take photos of the session or do video interviews with players or coaches for any features I might be writing for windiescricket.com or for quotes in a press release. When we return to the hotel, I get started on either writing articles or press releases or editing the video interviews.
On tour, I have to organize players headshots for the host broadcasters, schedule press conferences for players and coaches with the media (Zoom interactions since the Covid pandemic started), collaborate with the Head Coach on which match is suitable to have the team photo done. On match days, I have to be present with the team captain at the toss, to know of the decision and relay the Playing XI information to our digital team for them to post on social media. I have to escort a player who might be requested by the broadcasters for a flash interview during intervals and at the post-match interview, along with post-match press conference. I have to keep a schedule of media interview requests and attempt to have them all fulfilled, these are separate from the Zoom media interactions that are hosted by the team. I have to ensure players fulfil sponsor duties where applicable. I write all the match reports that are emailed to journalists globally as well as posted on CWI’s website.
What are some of the lessons you are learning as a woman in the media space?
I heard the comment “men should work with men and women should work with women” and I was flabbergasted because I thought it’s unfair. I did the same university courses, had the same or more professional experiences as my male counterparts but still I was told I’m not suitable because of my gender. That showed me that I am forced to work twice as hard to earn my achievements solely because I am a woman and not because I am qualified or competent to carry out the job. That no matter how good I am at what I do, the patriarchal industry will see me as a woman first and not competent or qualified.
What makes you passionate about women’s sport?
Personally, I like to see women outperform men in sports. Achieve milestones before men. Example, in T20I cricket, the first cricketer to take 100 wickets was a woman, West Indies’ very own Anisa Mohammed. The first cricketer to reach 3000 T20I runs is New Zealand’s Suzie Bates. Most goals scored in international football is by Christine Sinclair of Canada with 188. It’s almost like “anything you can do; I can do better”. That’s what makes me passionate to see women thrive in sports.
How you describe the state of Women’s Cricket in the West Indies and where does it rank globally?
We are currently at a growth and developmental stage. For a long time, we had the same pool of players, but in recent years CWI has invested more in developing the women’s game in the Caribbean. They’ve given women and girls’ cricket its own selection panel, which has been able to see more of the rising talents across the region and that is evident by new faces joining the senior women’s camps over the last two years. Some of whom have gone on to play for the West Indies Women’s team.
Who are the women that inspire you and why?
First on the list is my grandmother. She became a widow and single parent at a young age and without a secondary school education earned a living to raise my mom and my aunt. Seeing her resilience even after both her daughters were married and had families of their own, is still an inspiration to me, because despite all that she faced, she never gave up. She learnt to sew and started catering food to earn a living and it’s what she did until two years ago when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Secondly, it’s my mom, she along with my dad sacrificed a lot to ensure my brother and I were comfortable and lived a sheltered life despite not having luxuries that some of my other relatives could have afforded.
Lerato Malekutu is another female that inspires me. Finding out that as a female, she was the Media Manager of a men’s cricket team, it pushed me to consider becoming one. I met her for the first time in Trinidad where SA had a training camp I believe, I was a sports journalist at the time and I wanted an interview with Hashim Amla. When I got to the Queens Park Oval, one of the guys directed me to seek permission from the Proteas Media Manager and out strolled Lerato. My brain was like: “WOW, there are women who are media managers for men’s teams!”. And from then on, I always had it in my mind that if given that opportunity, it would be my dream career.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Seeing my teammates succeed and achieve their dreams and knowing that I get to share in a little part of it.
What is your greatest ambition?
Professionally to see women get their dues in sport and not have to be treated as second athletes and professionals. Personally, to enjoy my family life and spend more time with my loved ones (there are others but can’t share at this time, but you’ll see them unfold in the future).
What advice would you give to aspiring young women and girls wanting to pursue a career in sport media?
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t achieve your goals because you’re a woman, Muslim-wearing hijab and that this is a man’s job. Get your education, set yourself a target and work towards it. Nothing comes easy and whatever does come easy doesn’t always stay. Work hard, work smart and never doubt yourself.
Photo 1 Caption: Cricket West Indies Media Manager, Naasira Mohammed, is a proud, feisty, hijab-wearing Muslim who is breaking glass ceilings living her dream career. Photo: Supplied