Solidarity Soccer Participant Spotlight: Sarah Choonara

Solidarity Soccer is our innovative community based football training initiative for women which has empowerment, skill sharing and a personalised approach shaping it. We have a session running at Hillsborough College, a session based at Concord Sports Centre and another session at Meadowhead School, running weekly – we have plans to expand the initiative into more areas and engage more women in the sport in a unique way.

We spoke to regular Solidarity Soccer attendee Sarah Choonara about her experiences of Solidarity Soccer, and what kind of impact it has had on and off the pitch – Sarah has won the Teamwork Digital Award and is a key defender for the AFC Unity Jets 11-a-side team!

AFC Unity: In a few words, how would you describe Solidarity Soccer to someone who hasn’t been?
Sarah: It’s a unique training session that works really well with players with different levels of experience and confidence so everyone learns and progresses together.

AFC Unity: What would you say to someone who hasn’t been to Solidarity Soccer if you wanted them to come along?
Sarah: You have nothing to lose! You can enjoy it for what it is, use it to progress your football, have fun, try something new, meet Jane and Jay, find out about the AFC Unity set up, it’s a top way to spend an evening!

AFC Unity: Do you have any stories that stand out from your time of being involved in Solidarity Soccer?
Sarah: I forgot the session start time had changed and was a bit early and saw another woman who appeared to be waiting. I asked if she was waiting for the AFC Unity session and she said she wasn’t but asked what it was. It didn’t take much persuading for her to cancel her lift, join the session and take information about other Solidarity Soccer sessions in her area!

AFC Unity: Has Solidarity Soccer had an impact on your outside football life?
Sarah: Yes – I’m fitter and I’m proud I’ve tried new things. It’s also really good spending time chatting on the bus, in the car and between activities with players I wouldn’t get to know otherwise, and consolidating friendships with team mates I do play with more.

AFC Unity: Has Solidarity Soccer helped you with 11-a-side football at all?
Sarah: Yes – my 11-a-side experience is just starting so I’m not quite employing flicks and tricks yet but the small sided game time with more experienced players gives me great opportunity to work on areas of my game I feel need a boost. The master classes are also excellent as you are encouraged to try things you may never have focused on before in a supportive environment which really helps.

AFC Unity: If you could pick one word to describe Solidarity Soccer what would it be?
Sarah: Inclusive

AFC Unity: What has been your favourite skill to learn and why?
Sarah: The Cruyff Turn as it was the first skill we learned and it encapsulated the whole ethos of Solidarity Soccer about football being for everyone. This beautiful, creative, world class move is there for everyone to try… our first session!!

AFC Unity: Anything else to add?
Sarah: The Sport England’s Satellite Club of the Year nomination was brilliant recognition for all the thought, dedication and hard work that has gone in to creating and developing Solidarity Soccer. I’m so pleased women’s football in Sheffield has this wonderful provision for us to enjoy and hopefully inspire others. Many thanks AFC Unity!!!!

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