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A Joy to behold: Foundation volunteer interviews United stars

Joy, a volunteer analyst with Manchester United's Girls Academy, shares her experience of interviewing United’s stars at Carrington.

| by Joy Dlamini

"My name is Joy and I’m a final-year university student at Manchester Metropolitan University and a volunteer with Manchester United’s Girls Academy.

This week, I spent time interviewing some United first-team players, and as a lifelong fan, it was absolutely amazing!

Last year I spoke at an event about inspiring girls in football, alongside some of the young people from the Foundation and meeting staff. A year down the line, that led me to this opportunity of supporting some of the Foundation’s social media content.

I’m originally from Sheffield, so coming to Manchester to study Sports Science, it was always my dream to do work with Man United. When I started my volunteer role as a Girls Academy performance analyst during my first year of university. I quickly realised I’d be helped on my way so long as I was willing to learn.

Similarly, with the interviewing, it’s something that’s slightly outside my comfort zone as I haven’t had much experience of doing it before. While I took inspiration from lots of different people online, I knew it was important to still be myself. I wanted to give the opportunity to come up with questions to a younger audience.

I have my own goals and ambitions, but I knew that those wanting to get into the sports industry could take so much from elite players’ advice. I put the idea out to my followers on social media and the questions came flooding in.

The day came and on the way to Carrington, I was so nervous, but when I did arrive, the atmosphere was amazing. I had the chance to interview Harry Maguire, Andre Onana and Altay Bayindir – the experience shifted my perspective of what it takes to be a footballer.

Based on the questions we received, I had some really interesting conversations about players’ mindsets and motivation, which really ignited my flame about how important it is to be positive in yourself and towards other people. It’s a huge part of football and I wouldn’t be where I am without it; confidence is so important, too.

Sometimes you can mentally distance yourself from footballers, but getting into conversation with them made me realise that everyone is just human.

I could see the players’ passion and their desire to help others. I think a big part of their dream – and my own – is inspiring the next generation. It was great getting to know them as people and it gives you more compassion towards them – we only see the finished result on the pitch, without seeing the time and effort that is put in behind the scenes.

It was amazing to be a voice for some of the young people wanting to know more about the world of football and asking their questions. As for my own journey, I’d advise anyone to just introduce yourself to people, be your true authentic self, and doors will open from there."

Stay tuned to the Foundation’s social channels to hear Joy’s chats with Harry, Andre and Altay.