After helping deliver coaching clinics for girls in Jordan, Rimla Akhtar reports back

Rimla Akhtar, a member of The FA Council and Inclusion Advisory Board, made a trip to Jordan earlier this month to help deliver a country-wide project to support women’s football and empowerment and to set a world record. She provided her account of the fourteen-day trip for TheFA.com.

Tuesday 17 Apr 2018
We travelled across Jordan from the north to the south to put on football coaching clinics for girls, who had never played the game before

This trip had many moments that remain firmly in my mind.

It was the third coaching clinic we held in particular, in the Wadi Rum area, which I can still remember quite vividly and where the enormity of our impact was felt. We had 267 girls turn up to play football for the first time in their short lives on a camel racing track.

Jordan Quest 2018
  • A mission to promote women and football in Jordan and Asia
  • Run by Equal Playing Field & AFDP
  • Camps and exhibition matches for communities across Jordan
  • Guinness World Record for lowest recorded match at Dead Sea

Imagine that! The teachers spoke with us after and said they wanted to bring 700 along, but that would have been pretty much impossible to handle for our little group of eager coaches.

Then, in Ghor As-Saafi, it was great to see a group of girls inaugurating a new 3G pitch with the local boys just watching on from behind the fence.

This was the pitch that was built specifically for the World Record Match. Rather than it being built at the Dead Sea, it was built in Ghor, one of the poorest areas of the country, for there to be a legacy after the game.

Previously, the local people there had no access to a facility of that standard and now, as the parents have commented, the local children have somewhere safe to play.

That’s all part of the legacy of this project. In total, we held four clinics across different areas of the country and engaged with around 700 girls in some of the more remote areas rather than the cities.

We went to Jerash, just north of the capital Amman, and then we held three more in the south, in much harder to reach areas. This was the first experience of football for many of the girls who attended and the smiles and laughter that filled the venues told the story of how fulfilling an experience it was for them all.

It was great to see so many moments which will remain in my mind from the trip

This project all came about following a trek up Mount Kilimanjaro last year. Having set the record for a football match played at the highest ever altitude, the women joked about setting the record for the lowest ever altitude.

HRH Prince Ali turned that joke into a possibility and the Jordanian women who had trekked up Kilimanjaro made it a reality under his patronage and with the support of the Asian Football Development Project (AFDP).

With the aim to highlight gender disparities, in relation to football and beyond, within the country and around the world, the trip was an opportunity for me to join the team, share some of my personal experiences and advice, and grow personally through the friendship of this unique group of global women.

It was an honour to represent the FA and as a Level One coach myself, it was a really special experience to get back into that and work with young girls, as well as play exhibition games in some stunningly unique locations such as the Jerash Hippodrome where Roman chariots used to race, Wadi Rum where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed and of course Petra, one of the wonders of the world.

The trip was about legacy more than anything and, as I commented to HRH Prince Ali, the real success isn't the world record but everything that has been left behind that will have a lasting positive impact.

The pitch is one physical legacy which I hope will be used for many more ground-breaking initiatives.

However, for me, it is those Jordanian women who took the lead in organising this entire trip who will be the real legacy as they continue to grow and lead the next generation of Jordanian girls into this beautiful game that is football.

Our intrepid group of coaches trekked across Jordan to some of the most remote regions of the country

For more information on the project, head to the Equal Playing Field website.
By Rimla Akhtar FA Inclusion Advisory Board and Council member