Tayyiba Yunus brings up to speed Frenford & MSA. A club and partnership breaking down the barriers to participation.
Frenford & MSA Women FC was established in 2018 to encourage women to play the beautiful game and overcome the barriers to participation. It began with a struggle to persuade even a handful of players to turn up to training sessions. Now, we have two teams and record numbers of players joining the grassroots football scene.
The club was formed as a direct response to the lack of representation in football of local women. Redbridge, home of Frenford & MSA, is one of the most ethnically diverse areas in London. Levels of sporting participation amongst female residents – particularly within our BAME communities – are lower than average, and this was one of the key issues that Frenford & MSA sought to challenge at a grassroots level.
Despite our initial struggle to recruit players, we first formed a five-a-side team and joined a local league. Since then, we have expanded. Midweek evening fixtures have become the highlight of the week. Hanna Ahmed, who has been part of the team since its formation, describes the impact that competitive football has had on her life: ‘It has helped me to implement the skills I’ve learnt in training and develop my communication with my teammates. We’ve come so far and not only advanced individually, but together as an entire team’.
For me, a distinctive part of the club culture is its aim to create a long-term impact beyond our successes on the pitch. Players are encouraged to complete coaching programs to develop leadership skills and train the next generation of footballers.
What started off as small-scale training sessions has culminated in a series of achievements that has seen Frenford & MSA join the Super 5 League, win a tournament at Stamford Bridge, establish two teams and, more recently, venture into the unfamiliar territory of eleven-a-side. Friendships for life have been formed, rooted by a common passion for football. Above all, though, the real achievement and significance of Frenford & MSA is clear: when women are provided with a welcoming, inclusive and accessible environment to play football, it will succeed, regardless of individual backgrounds and abilities.