This evening’s Premier League fixture against Stoke City is all about celebrating anti-discrimination in football, an annual event in support of Kick It Out, which sees the players warm up in branded t-shirts, management and coaching staff sport badges and the ball assistants parading an ‘equality in football’ banner pre-match and at half-time.
Founded in 1993, Kick It Out uses education and awareness campaigns to make the game a more safe, welcoming and comfortable environment free of all forms of discrimination, prejudiced attitudes and abusive behaviour.
The six girls invited to the game tonight each attend the weekly football and multi-sport sessions at their school in Levenshulme. The programme is delivered free and in partnership with the Premier League with a focus on engaging multi-ethnic young women aged 14+ in sports, building confidence and improving their health and well-being.
Karam, 14, felt encouraged to attend the sessions due to the girls-only environment. “I think the fact that this session takes place just for girls inspires women who might not normally want to play sport; it helps us get involved,” she said. “My favourite part of coming is that there is something new every week, for example we do a different training exercise to make sure we cover all areas to progress to become good footballers.”
A huge United fan, Karam continued, “I’m very excited to go to the game; going on the pitch will be amazing as our role models play there and to have that opportunity will be great.”
Sisters Habiba and Thoiba also enjoy the social aspect of the classes: “I enjoy it just being girls; we are all friends so we can joke around and have a laugh too,” said Habiba.
Thoiba added, “I like that the session is just for girls as it’s more comfortable. Working together as a team is my favourite part; at the end we play a big football match so we can all come together and it has definitely improved my football skills.
Habiba concluded. ““I do feel like boys are still separated from girls when it comes to sport as you see much more male sports on TV, but Kick It Out is a really good initiative to bring together diversities and show that football is the type of sport that doesn’t need any discrimination involved.”
For Kick It Out player ambassador for the 2015-16 season, Marouane Fellaini, the anti-discrimination message is one he feels passionately about.
“The work that the club and Manchester United Foundation do in support of Kick It Out to combat discrimination is very important; everyone should be taught to embrace diversities and see others as equal,” the Belgian midfielder commented. “I have witnessed discrimination first-hand so understand the importance of education and working together as communities. As a squad, we all support the work of Kick It Out; discrimination has no place in football, and if we can do anything to share that message, we’re more than happy to do it.”
Manchester United Foundation’s Principal Partner, and leading global provider in risk and people, Aon, is also in support of more welcoming and comfortable environments. Aon’s Global Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Phil Clement, said, ‘We are looking forward to seeing our friends from Manchester United Foundation on the pitch tonight to support Kick it Out. We must promote respect and inclusion in all aspects of football and allow individuals to be themselves and flourish.’
Karam, Habiba and Thoiba will join their classmates Reanne, Saarah and Tuba at Old Trafford this evening as they take to the pitch at half-time to take a penalty against Fred the Red.
Find out more about Kick It Out at kickitout.org