Part 1: Football Story
Hi, everyone! I'm Stef from Soccer Girl Goals, and we're back with our Career Series. So today I have with me Charlotte, who is also from Passion FC, and is currently playing for Tai Po Football Club in Hong Kong. So thanks so much for joining us today. So for those of you who are new to the Career Series, we will be covering various players who are either playing professionally or able to find time outside of their careers to pursue football, or those who have followed their passion in football to join the industry itself. So whether you're thinking of playing football professionally, or amateurly, we hope that this series of interviews can inspire you to continue pursuing football, whether within the industry or outside of it. So we can start with our first segment where we find out more about Charlotte's football journey. So maybe, Charlotte, would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself, like what you're doing now and all that?
Hi, everyone, I'm Charlotte. I'm from Hong Kong. I'm currently on a gap year, but next year I'll be attending NYU in Abu Dhabi. I'll be majoring in Arab Crossroads Studies. I have been playing soccer for around five years now. I originally started with my school team playing in middle school, and then after that I joined Tai Po Football Club, which is the club team in Hong Kong, and I've been playing with them for almost three years now. So yeah.
That's cool. That's cool. So like, how did you get started playing football?
Yeah, that's a good question. Like before, when I was a kid, I wasn't super active, and I didn't really like doing sports. But I just remember, I was in fifth grade that one year and Christmas, we had a family gathering and I was with my cousin. We didn't really have anything to do, and there was this big lawn, and we also had a tennis ball back when he played soccer, so he was like, "Why not? Let's just play soccer." I was like, "sure." I didn't have any experience at that time, but then I just remember it was really fun running after a tennis ball and kicking it, and that's when I became hooked on the sport. And around that time, I was also watching an anime related to soccer. I just thought it was really cool to play with a bunch of people. So yeah, that's how I became interested. But back then I went to a Catholic school, and they didn't really allow girls to play soccer, so I couldn't get started. So it was when I transferred schools to an international Christian school in eighth grade, I started playing with a small team and I started playing seven a-side first as a defender before moving on to 11 a-side.
Sounds like you had some challenges when you were younger, especially when you were in the Catholic school. Maybe you can share a bit more about that, like what exactly happened? And did you manage to overcome it?
Sure, definitely. So, back when I was in that Catholic school, they had a really traditional mindset about what girls could do or what they couldn't do. So in their mind, like soccer was just not a sport that girls could play. So I remember that, I would join the volleyball team and then like, start kicking the ball over the net. And I would do everything I could maybe like, just get a tennis ball and like, kick around by myself, like, basically take advantage of every opportunity to play. But then still, like I hadn't really limited resources, and nobody to teach me. I couldn't really get started. So yeah, it was really hard for me at first, but after I transferred schools, things got a lot better because the school that I graduated from, the international Christian school, we had like a fully-fledged girls’ soccer team, we had a coach, we had a field, we had resources. That really helped because soccer is a team sport, and it's hard for you to play on yourself. And another challenge that kind of phased is that I have really weak knees. So I dislocated both my kneecaps around four times. So it's like every time before a major competition, or before the season starts, I dislocate my kneecap. And that was really frustrating because I could never improve and realize my full potential as I wanted. So yeah, that really took some time before I could like improve and get on the same level as everybody else. So I just started doing other trainings as well as strengthening my muscles so I could get better, and it just took more time than other people. But eventually, I got to improve as well. And also because I started playing soccer way later than everybody else, I didn't really fit in the team when I first started because everybody started playing when they were kids. So that was really hard for me to accept at first, but I realized that soccer isn't about you comparing yourself to other people. And it's about how much you enjoy the sport and how much fun you get out of it. So eventually I just learned to not compare myself and just let go and have fun on the field, still trying my best, but the outcome is not something I can control.
Wow, it sounds like you really had quite the football journey, all the ups and downs. Right, so, what do you love about football?
That's a good question. I guess it's both easy to pinpoint and kind of abstract at the same time. Because the first time I fell in love with it, it's just how liberating that feeling is, like being able to run on grass and just not think about anything else, just focus on the ball in front of you. And also have fun with other people because soccer is a team sport, and you get to bond with other people, whether it be with your teammates, or people that you play against. It's just special when you play with them because you get to know a side of them that's not really seen through conversation or just like daily interaction. So I think like apart from just being able to get good sweat in and just enjoy the sport, the camaraderie and the friendship that I get with other people is also an aspect I really treasure because some of the best moments, of course, I had playing soccer on the field, where we win games, where we score goals, but they're also off the field with some of my friends where we go get dinner after we win a game, where we go hang out after practices. And it's this whole community that the sport brings people together, and I just love everything about it.
Stay tuned for our second segment: Career in Football
Part 2: Career in Football
We move on to the second segment. So we'll talk about your career in football. So maybe you can introduce the work you do at Passion FC?
Yeah, sure. So I'm a Community Development Intern at Passion FC. Specifically, I work in the Middle East and North Africa region, so dealing with different social issues and issues related to football in that region. Passion FC is a movement that uses football to encourage dialogue related to social issues, empowerment of athletes, football fans, and other things, basically using football to bring about conversation. So the work that I do in the Middle East region mainly focuses on women and also young athletes in that region. So a project I worked on last month was about development of female footballers in Lebanon because female footballers in Lebanon, they don't get a lot of resources, and they don't get a lot of attention. So it's really hard for them to, I guess, move to play professionally, or to continue developing their skills because they don't have coaches, the money, and the resources for them to develop. So last month, I interviewed a football coach who grew up in Lebanon, she is a girl, but she played with guys because back then, when she was a kid, there were no teams in northern Lebanon where she grew up. I got to understand her story about finding her place among guys, and eventually coming out of that and leading girls and empowering them through football, and that was really encouraging. And I also noticed that there are a lot of similarities between what's happening to girls football in the Middle East and also in Hong Kong, because in both places, like Lebanon and Hong Kong, there is no professional women's league, so all of our players are amateurs, and they also play with their own money. So like for their transportation, their soccer kits, their cleats, everything, they use their own money, so many of them work full time, and then they rush off after work to late-night practices. That can be really taxing and probably not the best for athletes' development, as you can see, because they can't fully dedicate their time to pursuing the sport that they like. And there isn't just as much attention, because as you can see, in both places, there are not many supporters or fans watching games as compared to the men's games. You will see lots of supporters, fan clubs, different resources, when for the women, it's just harder to, I guess, pick up from that because they just don't have that much support, like that big of a support network to them. So yeah, I think it's hard for women to play in both countries, but at the same time, it's really encouraging and empowering because despite all the challenges that these women face, they still choose football, they still choose to pursue their passions, no matter what difficulty comes their way. And you can see how much they're willing to put in for the love of their game. So yeah, that's really humbling for me as well.
Yeah, I mean, it's pretty cool that you are exposed to like all these because of your work at Passion FC. So my next question is what got you started in like Passion FC?
Yeah, sure. So I first got connected with the Managing Director of Passion FC, in around July, August last year. She's actually the captain of my university soccer team. So I got connected with her because she knew I was coming in, I was really enthusiastic about playing soccer, and she just really nicely reached out to me, and we started talking. And she told me about Passion FC, this movement that she was involved with, and I was like, "Oh, that's really cool" because I'm also passionate about storytelling and journalism, and using that avenue to talk about social issues related to football. I think it's something that's really meaningful, something that can really encourage conversation. So she also encouraged me to share my personal story on their platform. So I wrote up my whole soccer journey, and I shared that on their platform. That's kind of how I first got to know them and got started to connect with them. And around December, January this year, they started recruiting Community Development interns, and when I saw this opportunity, I got really excited because I've always wanted to work with them, especially in some something related to football, and especially social issues as well. So I immediately signed up, I sent in my resume and everything, and fortunately got accepted, and that's how I started working with them.
Yeah. That's cool, That's cool. So like, what do you think you have gained from having this internship related to sports?
I think I've definitely gained a lot of insight and also skills. Skill-wise, I guess, because my role was mainly to uncover the different stories related to football in the Middle East, so just learning to be able to put myself out there, to reach out to different people, listen to their stories, because a lot of what I do is also outreach. So it's just basically going on Instagram, looking at relevant hashtags, and then contacting people who might be interested in following our platform, and also sharing their stories on our platform. Just reaching out to them telling them more about our movement. So I think that's definitely helped with like my interpersonal skills. But at the same time, it has also given me a lot of breadth and depth into what goes on in the football world professionally, especially in the Middle East. I guess my interview with the football coach that I talked about earlier in Lebanon was really eye opening, because a lot of the information that she talked about wasn't available on the internet. So getting to hear from somebody who worked there on the ground professionally was really eye opening. And getting to empathize was an understand their situation as well was really helpful to me to understand football in a global context beyond just Hong Kong or maybe Abu Dhabi, my university scenario, and just understanding how women all around the world are playing football professionally, and dealing with the issue that we're facing.
Right. So would you say that playing football has influenced or impacted your life?
It has completely changed my life, honestly. I don't think I am the same person that I was before I started playing football. I think it has definitely changed me for the better. Whether it be, I guess, about skills, I've learned to be more confident in my playing and also just became a fitter person in general. I think that's really important because lifelong fitness is good for everyone. It's good to stay active, and football is the best way for me, I guess, and for a lot of people. And it's also helped me grow in my interpersonal skills, whether it be interacting with teammates, people from other teams, getting to know everyone's needs and their skills, what they're good at, and like balancing the team as well, that's really important. But I guess one major thing I would say is my attitude in life, how playing soccer has shaped me into who I am today, because my soccer coach at school always says that you play not to learn how to win, but you play to learn how to lose. And I think that's really important because more often than not on the field, you face challenges or obstacles that you don't necessarily like, or you think it's very hard and you don't know how to get through, and that's when you learn to ask for help. That's when you learn to come together as a team and to work towards it together. When you learn to cry, to laugh together, to overcome challenges, and playing a game is very much like going through life, where you have lots of ups and downs, but whatever you do, you try your best to enjoy your process and to go through it with a smile because you know that you'll come out of it stronger and better, and you'll learn more from it. So yeah.
All these experiences, how has it impacted maybe your work life? Like have you learned some skills that you can translate it to work?
I think one thing that really helped me, like playing soccer, was time management. Because before I started playing, I would just procrastinate a lot because I get off school at like 3 or 4 p.m. and I think like, "Oh, I still have, like, so many hours before I go to bed. I still have time to, like, just relax, watch Netflix a little bit before I started homework," and then I procrastinate until like 7 or 8 p.m and then I will start working. But then football has really packed my time and given me a schedule, so I know that, "Okay, I get off school at 3 p.m. I practice at 6 p.m., so I need to get everything done before that." And it's really my motivation to do better at school because I know that if I don't get like satisfactory grades, if I don't get everything done, then my parents are probably not going to let me play because they'll think that, "Oh, the sport is like dragging your academics down. I can't let that happen." I think it's actually contrary to what most people think, it doesn't take away from my studying time. It actually helps me use time better because I'm not dragging things out. I am actually focused on what I'm doing at that time. So that time is allotted to academics and that I get everything done. I'm very focused, and on the field I try my best not to think about the test that's coming the next day or anything that's going to happen because on the field it's only about soccer. I'm trying my best. I'm playing because I enjoy the sport. So yeah, I've learned to compartmentalize my time and work in academics and sports. I think it's been really helpful.
Stay tuned for our final segment where we talk about career advice.
Part 3: Career Advice
Okay so moving on to our last segment. So this is where we ask you about any challenges you faced or advice for anyone interested in those career in football or sports. So what are some of the challenges you faced or observed in Passion FC, like, your internship
I'd say the biggest challenge is rejection because we are a relatively new organization and not a lot of people know about us, so it's really hard for us to get the word out and to get people to, I guess, understand our concept get connected with us and also participate in the movement so I remember I did outreach last month and we focused on footballers in Turkey. We didn't have a lot of connections there so it was just a lot of cold messaging on instagram and I remember that was kind of discouraging for me because I messaged like, 50 or more accounts and none of them replied and it's easy for you to think that you might be doing something wrong but then it's important to understand that it's not your fault because in the world of football you face a lot of rejection whether it be like, maybe you're a professional player you don't get to sign on the club that you want to play with. Or maybe you think you're not good enough, you don't get to play in the team that you want these are all things that are very discouraging, but it's important to remember that if you love soccer and you are willing to spend time on it then it doesn't really matter if you face rejection because it's going to happen eventually in life but what matters is that you persevere and that you continuously give time, love, and energy into this work because eventually it will pay off. I don't know how long and I don't know, it might not be necessarily in the way that you originally envisioned it to be but I guarantee you that as long as you continue to put the heart into cultivating your love for the sport is going to pay off and it doesn't matter if you think that you're not good enough. As long as you have the drive to make it work I'm sure you can make a career and a living out of it
I mean you face all those rejections right? Was there a tactic you used to like, get people to not reject you or was it just sheer determination?
Umm I don't think you can get people to not reject you. Yeah I think it's very hard but you just have to keep trying like if one door closes if they're not- if that person is not going to respond you go to someone else. And one thing I've learned that's really helpful is connections. It's basically forming good connections with their coaches, players, people that you know because that will really help you in the long run especially in the sports industry where a lot of it is just like referrals based on word of mouth, or get into teams or jobs and try outs from people that you know because I guess it's this balance of trust that you develop with people that you know. So I think one thing that is helpful into cracking the sports industry is definitely to develop good connections with people you know. Start messaging, get connected with them, check in on them from time to time to let them know about opportunities that you might have so then they'll keep you in mind when something comes up as well so yeah it's like maintaining great relationship with everyone is really important
Right, right. Okay so one last thing. Do you have any other advice for someone interested to start a career in football or sports?
As cliché as it sounds, just do it. I'm actually wearing like Nike Just don't quit, just do it. Yeah like and it's hard for you to like, imagine how your career is going to be like because you haven't really gotten started into it and it's easy for you to get bogged up into like, oh how am i going to do this? What am i going to do, like how am I going to get the money, the fund, resources? But if you think too much and you don't actually do it, then you're never going to get started in it. So I'd say yeah it's good to have planning and it's good to have a general idea and a general direction of what you want to pursue. But don't think too hard on it and just get started doing it because when you get started doing it things will start falling into place you'll get to meet people who share the same goals and vision as you and maybe you get to collaborate and talk to them and then they'll help you along the way to shape your path. So yeah, just have- don't like, kind of forced yourself to go into like "okay I want to go work for this team, I want to do this thing." Have a general direction but don't limit yourself. So kind of see how it goes, where the opportunity leads you. And where there's a will, there's a way. I know it was really cliché, but as long as you put your heart into it, and you're determined to find a way that'll work out, it will work out. And there are many ways to make a living out of sports. Like, you don't have to be a professional player. You don't have to be a coach, you can maybe work in sports commentary, in journalism, in management. There's so many things related to soccer in the sports industry, and there're constantly new jobs that are coming up, maybe even you can work for social media for a team. And there are so many new exciting opportunities coming up that you can really do anything. So the opportunities really are limitless.
That sounds awesome. Thank you so much for sharing with us today and joining us here today.
Okay. And thank you everyone for tuning into our career series brought to you by Soccer Go Girls and Passion FC. As mentioned at the start the interview we hope that this series can show people that playing football and having a passion for football can provide opportunities for you, both within and also beyond football. So thanks so much. Bye.
Thank you. Bye