Today, Soccer Without Borders Maryland participant, Aya, featured in a Common Goal Live Match alongside Ada Hegerberg, Blaise Matuidi, Juan Mata, and Eniola Aluko to discuss equal opportunities in soccer. Teaming up with 433 and the Danone Nations Cup, Common Goal virtually gathered seven young players from around the world to share perspectives and experiences with a group, which notably included a Ballon d’Or winner and two World Cup champions! Aya took the time to elaborate on some of the challenges that many women face in the sporting world, but also the capacity that soccer has to build one’s confidence, as she explained, “I felt really empowered playing soccer. I felt like I had a voice.”
Aya, originally from Iraq, came to the United States in 2015 and joined SWB Maryland in 2016. Since then, she has excelled on and off the field, inspiring many along the way. SWB Maryland Senior Program Coordinator Kat Sipes commented, "Being Aya's coach has been one of my biggest motivators. Over the past 5 years I have seen her grow, become a leader, inspire others, and truly find her voice. It is players like her that inspired me to shift from coaching boys and co-ed to supporting the growth of our girls program—advocating for the importance and strength of our girls teams, their voice, and overall gender equality. Most of all I'm proud of Aya for her confidence." On Aya's interactions with peers, SWB Maryland Coach John Teweldebirhan observed, “Aya is always willing to help and care for all of her teammates and classmates on and off the field.”
After witnessing Aya’s growth in the SWB program over the past years, it is with great pride today that we watched Aya discuss key issues relating to inequality in soccer with some of the best athletes in the world. Reflecting on the experience, Aya expressed, "Being a part of the common goal equality conversation made me feel really empowered and strong. The players gave good advice and I like how they were very open on the topics that we had. I was really happy to hear that players and Common Goal have a purpose to support programs in need, and it was so cool being on the call with other players like me and getting to meet them.”
“I'm so grateful for my coaches for giving me this opportunity and teaching me so much about standing up for myself. I want to keep learning about this and maybe one day make an even bigger change."
View the full Live Match video here>>