The Chelsea FC Foundation recently hosted an all-female football tournament at the Linford Christie Stadium and at the heart of the event was 18-year-old Mahnoor Rauf.
Having found the opportunity to play girls’ football hard to come by during her childhood in the borough of Wandsworth, Mahnoor made sure that would not be the case for others and helped to present more opportunities for girls wanting to play football by setting up a girls’ team at her local youth club.
What followed was a crazy whirlwind as they won Community Team of the Year, while Mahnoor was also presented with the Volunteer of the Year award for her work in girls’ football.
Her dedicated and passionate work was further rewarded when she was offered the chance to work as a sessional coach for the Chelsea FC Foundation.
Mahnoor, who is also studying a degree in Science, said: ‘I got involved with girls’ football because in my borough in Wandsworth there weren’t any girls’ teams, so at my local youth club I set up a girls’ team and it all just went a bit crazy from there - we won Community Team of the Year and I got Volunteer of the Year.
‘I did all of the admin for the team, I ran a tournament and we had more than 70 girls attend and that helped to start a girls’ league at the London County Youth Football League.
She added: ‘Gareth, who is the London development officer, knew me from the work I did for girls’ football within the borough.
‘I already had my level one coaching badge and I was doing my level two coaching badge when I was in school, and I was doing it with other Chelsea coaches on the course.
‘We all passed on the same day and Gareth asked if I would like to do some work for the Foundation.
‘I had an interview on the phone, then a face to face one and then I had to deliver a session and then I was given the job as a Chelsea Foundation sessional worker which I was delighted about.’
Given the opportunity to become a coach for the Foundation, this has allowed Mahnoor to continue to inspire and help grow the number of girls participating in football. That was recently highlighted at the Linford Christie Stadium when more than 80 girls took part in the 5-a-side tournament.
‘It was 5-a-side tournament but you could turn up as an individual and we put them into a team on the day. It was a great day, a great turn-out and all the girls were given a Chelsea pack and they got information booklets on how they can get more involved in football.
‘I think it’s really important that more and more girls get involved because with football being a team sport, the life skills that I have picked up by being part of it, I think I wouldn’t have got in another environment. You build so many relationships, you learn about teamwork and leadership.
‘Even if you don’t enjoy playing football, it is also about the social side of it as well – I think it’s so important to take part.’
Click to find out information on our work within Women and Girls’ football