oung female footballers who are part of a social inclusion charity have reflected on the barriers they have faced in the sport and finding the “mental strength to keep playing” as part of an immersive installation.
Football Beyond Borders (FBB) – an education and social inclusion charity which uses football to empower young people – is on a mission to raise £100,000 to support 100 girls through its football programme in time for the Women’s World Cup, which begins on July 20.
With over half of the money raised, it has set up a free immersive experience outside King’s Cross train station, in London, to encourage more to donate to the cause, as well as highlighting the barriers preventing girls from participating in football.
Visitors will be welcomed by members of the charity and get to explore the installation by first walking through turnstiles, which are a physical representation of the barriers girls face when playing football.
They then enter a makeshift changing room, which showcases the work the charity has been doing to “level the playing field”, with the next part of the installation featuring success stories from girls helped by FBB.
The final part includes a plinth with a replica European Women’s Championship trophy made by someone on an FBB programme, as well as a fake pitch.
Anaiya Sutar, a 16-year-old who was showing visitors around the installation, told the PA news agency that she wanted to attend because she “wants everyone to know what FBB is and understand what they do”.
“They really do help people and they’ve helped me grow over the years and I feel like everyone else deserves that chance as well,” the south-Londoner added.
Anaiya got involved with an FBB programme when she was around 11/12 and said the community at the charity was the standout highlight for her.
“Meeting so many people helped me to socialise because I was really shy in years seven and eight,” she said.
“I was able to make loads of friends with the same passion as me.”
Speaking about the Women’s World Cup, she said she is “really excited” for it to begin.
“I’m especially excited because the Lionesses won the Euros last year and I cannot wait to see how they do.
“Seeing them win the Euros really inspired me to keep playing football, playing sport, because it allowed me to see that women can do it.”
She said that the biggest hurdle in terms of playing the sport has been dealing with people “doubting you”.
“I’ve just learnt you need to keep persevering and finding the mental strength to keep going.”
Another keen footballer who is part of the charity – and whose story was reflected as part of the immersive installation – is 16-year-old Aalia Lamido.
The youngster from south-east London told PA that she hopes the display “spreads awareness about FBB”.
“I think a lot of people should have the chance to be a part of it because it made a big impact on me.”
Joining a programme of the charity’s when she was in year eight, she reflected on how the sport has allowed her to “build relationships and learn new skills” and how the charity has “given me a lot of opportunities” both inside and outside of school.
She labelled “boys” as the biggest barrier into football.
“When you say that you like football, they question you, but I would say to girls that want to get into football to get out there.
“Don’t worry about what other people think.
“Just go out and play football and once they start playing, they’ll start to realise that all those things you worry about just slips your mind.”
Ceylon Andi Hickman, FBB’s head of brand, said: “We’ve been trying to raise £100,000 to support 100 girls to go through our programmes in line with the Women’s World Cup this summer and making sure that we have an amazing tournament, but also that there’s a long lasting impact after the tournament.
“We partnered with GoFundMe to bring this campaign to life here in King’s Cross and we really want to bring to life the barriers that girls face to play football and also show what can be done to overcome those barriers.
“FBB is the solution to many of those barriers – we started working in 2018 with girls and we’ve grown our numbers massively and now work with over 800 girls across London, Manchester and Birmingham.”
The 27-year-old who is based in Brixton, south London, said that some of the barriers are structural, for example a lack of access, and the idea in society that “some still don’t think that girls should play football”.
“Some girls on the programmes also feel that women’s football is too far away from their life and they don’t have the cultural connections they want,” she added.
She spoke about how the Lionesses’ win at the Euros had a “huge” societal impact, which she hopes translates to the Women’s World Cup.
“Participation rates went up, but what we didn’t see was the inner city teenage girls that we work with feeling that love.
“What I hope with the Women’s World Cup is that we can make football more relevant and more accessible for those girls particularly and that the Women’s World Cup is the moment when all eyes are on women’s football and that those eyes drive us to meaningful change.”
The installation will be at King’s Cross from 8am to 8pm on July 13 and July 14.
The link to the fundraiser can be found here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/100-days-to-change-the-game