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AoC Sport Rising Leaders Programme Supports Refugee Students to Kick Off Their Football Careers

19 June 2023

Rising Leaders Students

Refugee Week runs from Monday 19 June to Friday 23 June and is the world's largest arts and culture festival celebrating the contributions, resilience and creativity of refugees and people seeking sanctuary. Colleges can be a vital part of a refugee journey. Doncaster College is just one example of how colleges have supported refugees.

Elaha & Sahar joined Doncaster College in September, having fled from Afghanistan. Doncaster College has been a huge support to Elaha and Sahar since arriving in England, helping to set the girls up with their studies, providing pastoral care and allowing the college to be a safe space for them. Both Elaha and Sahar are keen football players, having played in Afghanistan, so Doncaster College encouraged the girls to be part of the AoC Rising Leaders programme.

Rising Leaders is a programme funded by The Football Association (FA) and delivered by AoC Sport, as part of our commitment to develop greater equality of opportunities within the game. The programme is particularly focused on female applicants of Black, Asian, Mixed, or other ethnic backgrounds to increase resilience, motivation, communication skills and more.

Speaking to Elaha, she said "I left Afghanistan and when I entered England, I have felt freedom and happiness. “I am grateful for all the support and love I received from people in our college. Joining the college and being able to have the right education has been an amazing feeling for me and our teammates here in the UK."

The Rising Leader programme helps young people to improve their employability skills, and to become more positive and confident members of their community, while building resilience and maintaining the motivation to achieve their goals.

Elaha said “I loved the whole experience. I have gained self-confidence and self-belief, networked, and gained language & leadership skills. I have made friends and memories with young leaders from different countries and backgrounds. I feel empowered and I feel happy that this is a great start for me in a new country and a new society. I can create a new identity and I can be a role model to others.”

Chelsea Mulheir, AoC National Women’s Football Development Officer, said

“As the 2023 pilot comes to an end, we have been amazed at the 12 young females that have embarked on their leadership journey and journey within football. We are all so excited to support Elaha and Sahar to continue to grow into the football space and we cannot wait to see the impact they have within their colleges and communities”.

Alongside Rising Leaders, Elaha has been studying English and Computing, and will begin studying Sport Level 1 and Mathematics. “I am grateful for all the support and love I received from people in our college. Through the support of the college, I have been learning English, made friends, and got access to football experiences through college football. Most importantly, I got the opportunity to get the FA leadership certificate. I have learnt a lot and made great memories and friends".

Elaha's plan after college is to work in football, specifically becoming a football coach. With the Rising Leaders programme and the support of Doncaster College, she has a great foundation to build on.

Colleges can be the lifeline that a refugee student needs during an extremely frightening and daunting time. AoC Sport will continue to work with partners, like the FA, to provide opportunities that make a huge impact to the lives of each young person who participates.

Rising Leaders