Women's History Month


A playground full of Lionesses by Lotte Wubben-Moy

Lotte Wubben-Moy shares her Euro 2022 winners' medal with a supporter at Emirates Stadium

After winning the Euros with the Lionesses, Lotte Wubben-Moy knew that more needed to be done in order to secure a sporting legacy for young girls in the UK. 

Lotte and her fellow Lionesses wrote to the UK government asking to improve opportunities for girls to play football at school and this International Women's Day, the government has pledged that all schoolgirls will have equal access to football and sport. 

Here is Lotte's open letter, reflecting on this achievement and what it means for the future:

When I was seven I would walk in the door from school and immediately leave again to go and play football in the street. I would simply shout downstairs to my mum that I was off out to play and fly out the door. She knew where I was, two streets over in our small neighbourhood in Bow. I would always return a couple of hours later, five friends and two grazed knees the richer.

I look back and can’t help but think how lucky I was to have found my place growing up. Football was part of my identity, it helped me find a clear path in one of the biggest cities in the world. I think I’d have been pretty lost without it. I learnt so much about the complexities of modern society and of the person I would become, during those games in the streets. The jostling for who would play in goal, what was defined as a foul (and what often wasn’t), and the fighting for my place. I grew in confidence and motivation to constantly improve and it was incredibly empowering to hold my own against all the boys (not that I would have ever considered that at the time).

I do however remember thinking ‘all the other girls in the local area are crazy not to join in playing with us. I couldn’t understand it. Why didn’t they want to earn the respect of other local kids our age? Or have the chance to make friends with kids from all over the area? In hindsight, I am sure many girls would have walked past us wishing they had the confidence to play along too.

Stories of battling to play reverberate around our Lionesses changing room: from playing in boys' teams to starting up our own teams, to travelling continents to find adequate girls' coaching, this was an experience many of us have lived and a battle we have all fought. It has shaped us, but we want better for the future.

Football has given me so much and I feel indebted to ensure it gives as much, if not more, to others. And that is exactly why we 23-Lionesses put pen to paper, writing to the Prime Minister in demand of equality. We were determined to ensure every young girl across the nation has equal access to football when they go to school. To ensure that our European Championship win could leave a legacy past last summer’s blurry few days of celebration and hoarsely singing "It's coming home" in Trafalgar square.

I never for one moment thought it was possible to become a professional footballer all those years ago. No sooner would I have believed you if you’d said I’d be writing letters to the Prime Minister. But I’m part of a generation who knows no end to our dreams. We dreamt of becoming European champions. We harbour dreams for this summer’s World Cup. And we also dream of a time when girls watch the WSL on a Sunday afternoon and run into school on a Monday morning ready for their shooting drills, emulating their heroes, dreaming themselves, and dreaming with no limits.

This is another victory we now believe we have achieved. And perhaps it will grow to become our greatest ever victory. We will do everything in our power to ensure that this is the case.

As I grew up the street was traded for real pitches. The football teams I was part of moved predominantly outside of the M25. This meant that the once-post-school run around the corner was replaced by an ever-growing dependence on my privilege; my mum would drive me to training three or four times a week, often taking along other girls from the local area with us. We could afford the many and frequent team payments, new boots, and match fees. And most importantly I always had my parents’ full support.

But I know there will be so many girls out there who are not so lucky. Having witnessed it first hand, I know this necessity to travel has already ended so many young players’ careers in London and perhaps stopped many more from ever beginning. This is one of the reasons I so strongly believe in the need for girls’ football at every school across the nation.

Our letter and lobbying reached the ears of those most powerful within the country. As of today's news from Number 10, millions of girls in schools across the nation will now finally have equal access to football at school. They will be able to do what their male classmates have been able to do for years: play football at school.

Picture a playground full of young girls kicking footballs around in London and pick out a future Lauren James. A playground in Cumbria, pick out that future Georgia Stanway. A playground in Wigan, who is the future Ella Toone? Imagine how many future Lionesses you could pick out in every playground across the nation with every school now offering equal access to football.

Well, that is now the reality the Lionesses squad of 2022 dreamt of. But the victory is so much greater than that, because many don’t play football dreaming of a professional career. It's the camaraderie, the adrenaline, and the endorphins that I felt as a young girl. It is the teamwork, the social networking, and the lifelong friends made on the pitch. It is the beautiful game, that I know so well.

By making girls' football more accessible, we have opened a crucial door for the growth of women’s football as a whole. And if we want to look at our Lionesses and see a team that represents the whole nation, I believe this is one among many key steps to ensuring our national team becomes more diverse, stronger, and more successful many years into the future.

Long live street football. I’ll forever be indebted.

Let Girls Play,



The positive impact of Coaching for Life

On the 12th anniversary of the start of the Syrian War, Coaching for Life, a football programme that builds sustainable resilience in children living in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, continues to have a profound positive impact.

Using a blueprint developed over 38 years of Arsenal in the Community’s work in north London, combined with Save the Children’s experience in conflict and humanitarian crises, Coaching for Life uses the power of football to build a sense of belonging and improve the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of children.

Launched in Za’atari in 2018 – one of the world’s most populous refugee camps which hosts around 80,000 people, more than half of whom are children – Coaching for Life focusses on supporting children and their families who fled their homes since the outbreak of the Syrian war in 2011.

A new film launched today tells the stories of Jana and Ward, Syrian refugees who fled to Jordan with their families to set up a new life in the camp. Click the play button above to discover their journey.

Jana, a 13-year-old refugee

Meet Jana

Jana is a 13-year-old girl from Dar’a, Syria, who lives in Za’atari camp following the conflict in her hometown. Jana’s commitment to Coaching for Life means she travels by bike across the camp to attend the sessions. A shy and quiet girl, before joining the programme, Jana found it hard to express her emotions and opinions.

“I have lived in Za’atari for 10 years. We came here after the war,” Jana says in the film.

“Whenever there was aircraft, I would get scared by the noise. So we came here. My father got us here.

“I was so happy I signed up with Arsenal. When I play football, I feel happy. I feel full of energy and optimism,” added Jana.

Jana’s mother spoke about arriving in Jordan and the impact of Coaching for Life on her daughter. “We had nothing at all. We just escaped to save ourselves with our IDs only. We got here, we lived in tents, and we suffered.

“Coaching for Life changed Jana. 180 degrees, it changed my daughter. I think she started to love life again. It was like she had been dead, a body with no soul, but suddenly she started to love life, to love people.”

Ward, a 20-year-old assistant coach

Meet Ward

Ward is 20 years old and has lived in the camp since 2012. After participating in Coaching for Life, he wanted to become a junior coach so he could support other children in the camp. When he turned 18, he began to work for Save the Children as an assistant coach.

Ward’s mother talks about leaving Syria back in 2012, “We left Syria to come here. The strikes, the horror and fear. We were worried about the children, and we left with them.”

Ward added, “When we came here, the situation changed. We left our friends. Some didn’t come with us, and some died.

“After we got into this programme, we learnt how to build relationships on the pitch and how to make decisions.”

Ward plays football with fellow coaches

Reflecting on five years of Coaching for Life, Vinai Venkatesham, CEO of Arsenal, said:

“The stories we hear from children and their families in Za’atari shows the power football has to transform lives in our communities worldwide.

“We've taken the work we’ve developed over nearly 40 years with our north London community to support young children who’ve fled from the Syrian war, it’s inspiring to see the effect we can have.

“None of this would be possible without the Arsenal family coming together to provide a sense of belonging around the world.”

Speaking about the evolution of Coaching for Life, Mairead King, Director of The Arsenal Foundation, added:

“Over the next five years, our aim is to achieve long-term transformative and sustainable change for children in the Za’atari camp. To reflect this ambition, Coaching for Life has evolved to take into consideration the challenges facing the Za’atari community today, lessons learned from the last five years, and children’s voices to ensure their experiences are truly understood.”

“This includes making the programme sustainable by training more coaches, introducing mini-football leagues so there are more opportunities for children to participate, focusing on greater diversity by including children with disabilities, and having achieved gender equity on the programme, moving to a gender transformative approach by including boys and men in the conversation on the challenges that the girls and women face in the camp.”

An independent evaluation commissioned by The Arsenal Foundation and Save the Children to better understand the impact of Coaching for Life showed several positive outcomes that have supported improved mental health and psychosocial benefits among the participants:

  • Close to 90% of participants said they always felt safe as part of the programme
  • More than 90% felt that there was often or always an adult they trusted, who listened to them, told them when they did a good job, or really cared about them
  • Most child participants commented that the programme had improved their relationships with their parents, siblings or caregivers, as well as enhancing their self-worth, self-esteem and confidence
  • Female participants tended to report improvements in terms of learning to better express themselves, speak out, and overcome their shyness
  • Male participants tended to report improvements in terms of learning to treat others with respect, kindness, and less aggression
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