My experience coaching football in Tanzania

Football has played a big role in my life. Growing up, I’d get involved with football as much as possible, from playing in the school playground, to club teams, coaching in my community and working within a football academy. So when I was required to undertake a ‘work experience placement’ for a university module, I knew I wanted it to be football related. Having aspirations to turn my passion for the game into a career in sports development, I wanted to seek out a worthwhile opportunity, that could offer me a unique perspective on the power of sport, so when a vacancy to coach football in Tanzania was advertised, I was certain that this was the experience I was looking for.

Based in Arusha, Tanzania, the placement was developed in partnership by UK Sport and Sheffield Hallam University, and required me to deliver HIV/aids awareness, leadership workshops and coach a girl’s football team to represent Tanzania in the East African Cup. Living and working in Tanzania was not without its challenges; I’d never even been on holiday without my parents, so being in a third world country was a massive culture shock. The majority of the workshop attendees and football players that I worked with spoke very little English, which made home seem even further away, however, in that situation my only option was to forget my reservations and engross myself within the Tanzanian culture. To overcome the language barrier, I’d use sticks, old plastic bottles and rocks to mark boundaries for my football sessions, I utilised the little Swahili that I’d learnt to shout “pass, shoot or dribble”, I demonstrated every movement that I wanted my players to copy, I made an extra effort to build a strong relationship with, and gain the respect of my team, and even managed to teach them English football phrases.Emma


The East African cup was where the experience would conclude, so I engaged in every aspect of the competition and ensured my players enjoyed the experience as much as I’d enjoyed coaching them. They sailed through the qualifying stages, and went on to beat South Sudan in the semi-finals in an emotion fuelled penalty display. It was this moment where I realised how much football meant to all of these players; this wasn’t just a game for them, it was outlet, it was a form of empowerment, and I’d had the privilege of being a part of, and possibly enhancing it for them. It was honestly the most life changing realisation that I’ve ever had, something that was just ‘work experience’ for me, could have had a significant impact on those young girl’s lives. I learnt so much while I was there, but the most important thing I learnt was to never doubt the potential power you have to change someone else’s life.



Emma JacksonBio: Emma Jackson from Sheffield in the UK, is a 22 year old post graduate student studying gender in sport.  With a huge passion for football, Emma volunteered as a peer leader as part of UK Sports IDEALS project and travelled to Tanzania coaching her beloved football for 2 months.