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Taking Development to a Global Audience

This week I was honored to be approached by Danny Sherms of the World Unity Football Alliance to take a the role of Interim Women's Football Development Manager. It was a role I was every excited about and have since accepted.

For those that are not familiar with the fascinating world of amateur international football, you are certainly in for an eye opening treat, as I was when I was first introduced to this via my work with the Chagos Islands.

My first interaction with the association was as part of the men's World Series event held just after lockdown, an event that I experienced victory with Chagos in this four team tournament.

The WUFA World Series winning team, Chagos Islands

But what is WUFA and similar organisations all about?

It is not uncommon for us to be completely ignorant of the fact that international football exists outside of FIFA, who offer football on the highest stage such as the World Cup, where professional associations become members and send their national teams. The English FA and England squad are such an example. But where FIFA can be seen as the Premier League of world football, there also exists the non-league of international football where cultures and countries, not necessarily formed by traditional modern boundaries, can express their culture through the sport.

These teams join alternative organisations such as CONIFA and WUFA who offer teams support and a platform to do this. These organisations provide event structures such as tournaments and friendlies to allows a celebration of football and culture.

For some teams, these organisations provide a huge lifeline for cultures to keep their name alive and at the forefront as they battle to retain and identity that could quite easily be confined to the history books. There are some amazing people to be found within these teams, my work with the Chagos Islands introduced me to amazing people who changed my life such as Sabrina Jean, an unbelievable campaigner for the Chagos community and Jimmy Ferrar who I have worked closely with. My work with Afghanistan introduced me to Khalida Popal, who dedicates her life to the advancement of those who are oppressed and in the struggle. These people inspire me every single day.

Surrey International Women Vs Afghanistan National Development

It is this inspiration that has led me to the current day and my new role, my understanding and lived experience of this will shape my approach to this new role as we seek to extend the experience for all players both in and out of the organisation.

Now imagine if you will, a young girl, a refugee, moved from her own country by often terrible circumstance. This young girl has adapted to her new life, but yearns to establish her personal identity as a human being. She finds a way to do this through the volunteers that set up an international team that represents the culture she no longer has access too. They have little in resources, but they do what they can to make it the best experience possible for her and her teams mates.

This is the case for many teams that become members of associations such as WUFA who offer a professional basis for them to play the sport they love.

My role is driven by this circumstance, it is my plan to take these situations and, often against the odds, provide support services that are exceptional and professional. Services that players would not otherwise have access to such as S&C support, education and advice, access to training and seminars that will help them improve. This offer will also be extended to teams and associations wishing to improve their support offer and grow their women's teams.

We will do this using a simple five point plan that we will launch in the next few weeks, a plan that will give members a substantial offer of support in five key areas. An offer that I hope will inspire both current WUFA members to add or grow women's football amongst their ranks, or spark non members to get involved and grow themselves with WUFA.

Whatever the circumstance of each player or team, the fact remains that the meeting of cultures to take part in the sport we love is still and amazing a beautiful thing to embrace. Whether you represent a long lost culture reborn, or the region in which you live, every game and every moment should be a memory and experience for life - which is why I am so excited about undertaking this role.

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