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Team Talk

AS Roma’s Allyson Swaby catches up with Aya from Soccer Without Borders

AS Roma defender and Jamaican international Allyson Swaby says the work of Soccer Without Borders has left her inspired after catching up with one of its young people.

Following her decision to join Common Goal this summer, Swaby wanted to know more about where her 1% pledge was going — and she was left far from disappointed.

With her salary commitment heading towards Soccer Without Borders, Swaby was introduced to programme participant Aya to discover how the US football-based community organisation is using football to empower young people in and around urban refugee communities.

For Aya the organisation provided the first opportunity she’d experienced to play football, and she shared the positive impact the organisation has had on her life since first joining five years ago after emigrating from Iraq.

The pair discussed how football has served them in their lives; as a powerful tool for addressing social issues, its ability to offer multiple opportunities, and of the importance of having safe spaces for women on the pitch.

“Where I grew up in Iraq, it was this mindset where women stay home and cook and men go out, have fun, come home late,” Aya told Swaby. 

“So when I came here, and saw girls playing soccer, it gave me so much empowerment.

“Until recently, when they use to tell me ‘you’re a girl’ I would get angry. SWB pushed me to show who I am and be clear what I believe in.

“I had it [the belief] but I didn't show it because I was thinking about what people thought, what my mum thought, what my family members thought.

“Soccer Without Borders isn't just focused on soccer it also focuses on our future and what we want to become.

“And now my goal is, when I grow up, I want to make a change for me, for women, to say you can do it no matter what you're going through or who's around you.”

Aya’s charisma and infectious positivity left Swaby full of praise and likewise impressed with the tangible impact the game has had on her life. 

As someone who has both faced and fought gender-based discrimination within the game herself, Swaby outlined the importance for the next generation to behold such equal opportunities on the pitch and their subsequent implications on self-belief.

“I think that you have an incredible attitude,” Allyson told Aya.

“I wish I was thinking like you when I was 16. You're way ahead of me. You sound like you are really on the right path.

“I’m learning from you right now. 

“[Soccer Without Borders] sounds amazing. I know I’m a little bit a part of it now but where can I sign up? Can I come practice with you?

“If I can give you any advice, just follow your gut and do whatever you feel inside of you is like the right thing to do because people will pull you in a million different directions.

“And if you if you base what you want to do solely on the advice they're giving you it’s really easy to lose yourself and lose what you want to do.”