Team

Hope Over Fear (Head Coach’s player) Award winner, 2018/19 season

Unity (players’ player) Award winner, 2018/19 season

Ambassador (Solidarity Soccer participants’) Award winner, 2018/19 season

Seasons with AFC Unity: 3

Soccer background: ‘I started playing when I was 10 when a girls’ team was set up in the next village. I played until 18 then stopped for 3 years during university. This is my comeback!’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘They really encourage a positive attitude and are incredibly supportive! I also love the community projects and political vibes.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘To stop being compared to men’s football! More alternative clubs and more support.’

Random fact: ‘When I was about 8 I wrote to Stephen Hawking asking what there was before the big bang and I got a reply explaining it to me from one of his assistants!’

What she brings to the team: ‘I am quite tall…?’

Head Coach Jay Baker says: ‘Hannah’s breakthrough season and its associated awards speaks for itself; if you want to see our football philosophy personified on and off the pitch, just watch this player – a goalkeeper years and years ahead of her time for this level. Professional football had Hope Solo – we have Han’ Solo.’

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When You’re a Jet (second team players’ player) Award winner, 2016/17 season

Seasons with AFC Unity: 4

Soccer background: ‘I got involved in football because it made me feel happy.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘It’s a club with a social conscience. Although I love watching football, it can be a hostile environment. Along with organisations such as FURD, Football Beyond Borders, Football V Homophobia and clubs such as Republica Internationale, Clapton Ultras etc., AFC Unity opens the possibility of football being associated with socially progressive views. Change may be slow but AFC Unity is part of the solution. It’s also welcomed older women with less footballing experience (like me) and encouraged us to develop our skills until we are ready to register as a player – what other local club does that?’

What the women’s game needs: ‘To not be seen as an add-on to men’s football. You can enjoy both, or just enjoy women’s football. It would be great to see women’s football progress without making the mistakes of the men’s game, so there is investment from grassroots up and fair wages for the professional players without alienating or pricing fans out.’

Random fact: ‘Me and two friends sing in a three part harmony trio called “The Bints.” We have a CD which we sell in aid of a dog rescue charity – let me know if you want one!’

What she brings to the team: ‘Lots of energy, lots of encouragement and, as a developing player, ability to adapt to different positions or formations to help the club’s push for positive, attacking football become a success.’

Head Coach Jay Baker says: ‘Sarah exemplifies the spirit of the club’s punk underdog ethos, has scrapped and fought and focused her efforts to enjoy an upturn in footballing standards in inspirational fashion, helped bring fresh fans to our support, and has also helped spearhead the club’s campaigns off the pitch.’

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Seasons with AFC Unity: 6

Soccer background: ‘My Dad told me I have played football since I could stand up (around 2-3 years old), where I used to chase him around the house and garden with my twin sister Claire taking a small ball off of him! I then went on to play with several teams including the Sheffield United Community Foundation, Centre of Excellence, and also at West Brom’s stadium The Hawthorns, as captain, with my secondary school team Meadowhead when we became the best girls school team (14-16 years old) in the UK. Sadly, I gave football up when I was 16 years old for around 6 years because I wasn’t enjoying my experience playing, and instead concentrated on my studies and politics. I got back involved when I was 22 years old and then decided to put my passion for football and community change to co-found AFC Unity with Jay Baker in 2014.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘It’s not just about playing football. At AFC Unity we want to use football as a force for positive social change – this is important, as professional football becomes increasingly corrupted and saturated by money. We want to help bring back what football is supposed to be about – solidarity, having fun, hope, teamwork, and unity (hence the name!) Football can really bring people together and be a powerful tool for social change.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘Less pressure and more fun-based environments from a young age – creativity and individual flair needs to be nurtured and mistakes need to be encouraged as learning points not failures. There is still a lot of work with breaking down social conceptions of what a girl or a woman “should” be doing, and so to develop the game we still need to keep challenging this. This requires the media to become considerably better at reporting and covering the women’s game, with there still a considerable amount of sexism in the media’s reporting of women’s sport.’

Random fact: ‘Little did I know I have been playing football without an ACL since I was 15 years old and I have only just got a new one! Go me!’

What she brings to the team: ‘I’ll work hard on and off the pitch to help maintain a 100% positive, inclusive, creative and fun club environment! #InUnity!’

Head Coach Jay Baker says: ‘She’ll hate me saying this but Jane’s a genius on the pitch, an all-round player who personifies what I call “hard rock football” with both flair and intensity that has both provoked – and overcome – injury, so been completely underutilised in Unity’s formative years, which is about to totally change.’

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Integrity (team’s choice for off-the-pitch activism) Award winner, 2018/19 season

Seasons with AFC Unity: 4

Soccer background: ‘As a child I sometimes played football at the Wallsend Boys club with my older brother (other times, I played arcade games). I was always the only girl there, but I had fun. By secondary school, I played some girls football. I had a few years of no football at university, before picking up mixed six-a-side. I decided from there I wanted to play for a women’s team, and found AFC Unity.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘Positivity, and a sense of community.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘To get more people involved in playing, watching and supporting.’

Random fact: ‘I worked at St James’ Park while I was in sixth form.’

What she brings to the team: ‘A positive attitude, and a willingness to give it my all.’

Head Coach Jay Baker says: ‘She probably doesn’t like the tag, but Jaimee is our “Angel of the North,” a trustworthy and tireless advocate for the club and its ethos, with an uncanny ability to read the game on the pitch and adapt quickly – she’s everywhere she needs to be! In addition, though, Jaimee is always looking to improve her game, and it shows because she just gets better and better. She’s risen up through the team to become a passionate leader.’

6SP

Seasons with AFC Unity: 2

Soccer background: ‘I played lots of football as a kid – in the street and in the playground! My dad supported Ipswich Town and often had football on the TV in the background (often via Teletext!) I played a bit of 5-a-side at university, but then wanted to get back into a team sport after my daughter was born – and I found AFC Unity.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘AFC Unity promotes great values on the pitch – being inclusive, welcoming, friendly – and off the pitch, with its links to community campaigns and social causes.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘To disassociate itself from the men’s game, and all of the unpleasantness that is part of it. Football doesn’t have to be aggressive, it can be about skill, finesse and enjoyment and women’s football can show that.’

Random fact: ‘I was the first white woman to play in a competitive road tennis tournament in Barbados (road tennis is Barbados’ national sport, it’s a cross between tennis and table tennis, but played on the road.)’

What she brings to the team: ‘Hopefully some quiet energy and enthusiasm. I’m keen to learn and improve, particularly 11-a-side skills – long passing, positioning, tactics.’

Head Coach Jay Baker says: ‘Sarah is a freak – a Solidarity Soccer graduate who just had our playing style down to a T; she has raw energy and ability that you can’t take coaching credit for, it’s so unconventional and indescribable. You’ll see if you get chance to watch her play. She’s our secret weapon.’

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[CURRENTLY ON HIATUS]

Unity (players’ player) Award winner, 2015/16 season

Seasons with AFC Unity: 6

Soccer background: ‘I have played football from a young age and played for a variety of teams. After a few years away from the game, I played again at university and then with AFC Unity.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘The ethos. A lot of other clubs I have heard of or been involved with didn’t have the positive ethos that this club has. I was also drawn to the openness and approachability that you don’t always find.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘Even more coverage to build on the excellent work of the Lionesses in the recent tournaments.’

Random fact: ‘I love Marmite and I eat it every day!’

What she brings to the team: ‘Pressing as a forward and hopefully some goals from free-kicks!’

Head Coach Jay Baker says: ‘Although on hiatus and not currently registered, Shanie is a legend in Unity – a loyal, highly skilled, superb role model and leadership figure who doesn’t even have to try since she leads by example. A set-piece master who is selfless and always willing to give back to the club, the team, and the players.’

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Hope Over Fear (Head Coach’s player) Award winner, 2016/17 season

Seasons with AFC Unity: 6

Soccer background: ‘I’m not sure what got me into football, but I’ve been a Nottingham Forest fan since the age of 7. I loved playing with the lads at school and finally joined a team at university, where I played for Sheffield Medics women. In 2011 I took a few years out due to work commitments and travelling, but a couple of years ago decided I missed the fun and camaraderie – and AFC Unity seemed like the perfect place to pick it up again.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘The focus on qualities other than individual skill – like attitude, teamwork and commitment. And the positive feeling within the team. I’ve never seen anyone blamed for a mistake.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘To keep up the good work! It’s been a great few years for the women’s game, particularly with the World Cup performance – but now we need to capitalise on the coverage the game is starting to get, and encourage more girls to get involved from a younger age.’

Random fact: ‘I’ve done barbershop singing since the age of 11 and have competed in international competitions in Nashville, Texas, and Hawaii!’

What she brings to the team: ‘Good team work and a positive attitude. And hopefully a few more goals!’

Head Coach Jay Baker says: ‘Despite the name change she’s still “Millsy” to us – another long-serving and award-winning player in Unity, a calm and committed player through thick and thin, in very high standing and about to make her comeback this season after pregnancy!’

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Seasons with AFC Unity: 3

Soccer background: ‘I started playing football from an early age. I joined Sheffield United Community Foundation football team alongside playing for my school (Meadowhead) and Centre of Excellence. I used to play four times a week alongside any chance I could at school, after school and holidays with my twin sister Jane. One of my footballing highlights was becoming the Champions of the UK (14-16 years old) with Meadowhead School and playing at West Bromwich Albion’s stadium, The Hawthorns, that was one amazing experience!’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘The ethos behind AFC Unity is fantastic and the way it is run makes you feel involved & respected. The atmosphere at the club is friendly and inviting. The extra work that takes place at AFC Unity socially such as their work with local food banks is also fantastic and something that highlights its strengths as a football club.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘I think it needs a lot more exposure and air time on mainstream TV alongside more money pumped into it to develop the entry level schemes. Women’s football has grown exceptionally in recent years. I remember growing up and being so disappointed to find out the captain of the women’s England team had to also have a job at a supermarket whereas David Beckham was earning millions, whereas this seems to have developed and I can even now play as the England Women’s team on FIFA! The difference between the men’s and women’s team is still evident with coverage of matches not being given as much attention. However the advancement that’s happened so far is encouraging.’

Random fact: ‘I’ve met the legendary Joanna Lumley! ’

What she brings to the team: ‘I believe I can bring my experience from playing football for many years at a variety of different levels. I’m looking forward to doing this and hopefully scoring some goals!’

Head Coach Jay Baker says: ‘Claire is finally getting a chance to commit and unravel all of her creative flair and attacking brilliance and passion for the game, the sky is the limit for her and, really, she’ll be the only one who decides where her limitations are.’

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Seasons with AFC Unity: 2

Soccer background: ‘My 2 childhood best friends were boys – I played football with them a lot! I enjoyed playing for my primary and secondary school, then for Barnsley Girls from 12-16 years old. I took a break, and restarted playing more casually at university. It was time to get back into playing regularly!’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘A truly supportive and encouraging club, focussed on building the confidence of players in an interesting style of play.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘Relatable role models.’

Random fact: ‘I am scared of mascots.’

What she brings to the team: ‘Ginger-ness and a smile!’

Head Coach Jay Baker says: ‘Emma is so respectful and so humble and yet is one of those rare types who is so adept at our style of play that she influences the tempo of our game when she’s on the pitch and brings out the best in those around her too. And we haven’t even begun to barely scratch the surface of what she’s truly capable of, so watch out.’

Takeoff (second team coach’s player) Award winner, 2016/17 season

Seasons with AFC Unity: 6

Soccer background: ‘My family is big on football! I started playing when I was about 9 with my cousin – I used to go to a football camp on Saturdays where I was the only girl there. I joined a girls’ team when I was 13. This will be my sixth season with AFC Unity!’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘Everyone is treated the same, the coach always tries to give as much game time as he can, and everyone supports each other, even when you’ve made a mistake.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘It needs the same opportunities that the men’s game gets, and better support.’

Random fact: ‘I have 13 tattoos…and hopefully more to come!’

What she brings to the team: ‘Positivity, a willingness to improve, never giving up…and being tall!’

Head Coach Jay Baker says: ‘Chloe’s  another Unity original, having joined us right at the start, and apart from a brief break she’s been with us all the way. She’s always been a lovely character to have in the team, but has gone from being “the young ‘un” to a much more mature and wiser footballer. Something seems to have happened recently, though, as she’s applying herself better, and has reached another level on the pitch – she was always strong and had skill, but now she really knows how to use those to greater effect and is on track to her best season ever.’

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Hope Over Fear (Head Coach’s player) Award winner, 2015/16 season

Unity (players’ player) Award winner, 2016/17 season

Collective (supporters’) Award winner, 2017/18 season

Seasons with AFC Unity: 5

Soccer background: ‘I’ve played football for as long as I can remember. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed, and always will!’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘AFC Unity is a club like no other. It’s positive and does a lot for the wider community. It’s bang-on!’

What the women’s game needs: ‘More exposure and money. Women put just as much into football as men, and deserve more recognition.’

Random fact: ‘I can ride a unicycle and juggle!’

What she brings to the team: ‘Speed, skill, and power.’

Head Coach Jay Baker says: ‘Jo is one of a kind: I really do feel like she and I have been through so much together, good and bad, and we’re stronger than ever for it. What else can I say? She’s a club legend – she’s won almost everything there is to win, with endorsements from myself, the players, supporters, and made more appearances than anyone else, scored more goals than anyone else, it’s just incredible. We must feed “The Beast”!’

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Seasons with AFC Unity: 2

Soccer background:  ‘I can’t remember when I started playing but my dad has always been my biggest supporter and probably the reason I continued turning out to play in the snow and the rain every week when I was a kid. I’m coming back after a 4 year break and I’m not sure why I stayed away so long.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘It’s a club that has a friendly and honest attitude towards the game and recognises how it can be a positive force in the community.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘More of it! Particularly more mainstream visibility and encouragement/access at grass roots.’

Random fact: ‘I like bouldering.’

What she brings to the team: ‘A healthy dose of sarcasm and dark humour combined with a calm head that will hopefully keep everything fun no matter the score sheet.’

Head Coach Jay Baker: ‘Lizzie has an electricity to her play; a self-belief and even almost a cheeky swagger earned by her flashiness up front, which she’ll never stop ribbing me for saying but which I find refreshing in Unity! Yet we haven’t even started to fully unlock what she’s capable of, though nonetheless has become a very big deal in a very short time.’

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Seasons with AFC Unity: 2

Soccer background: ‘My dad’s first language is football, so we spent a lot of time playing together. Also, I grew up in an American schooling system in the Middle East – all the girls played soccer!’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘AFC Unity have a very strong sense of identity which they promote proudly. Their positive and inclusive atmosphere, along with their social ambition, create an awesome vibe.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘Positive voices who can translate the enthusiasm found on the pitches to women around the world.’

Random fact: ‘I am vegan.’

What she brings to the team: ‘(Other than vegan cookies? :D) I think that I am quite positive in nature – keen to make other people feel good, and I like to work hard for my team.’

Head Coach Jay Baker says: ‘Kirsten is a true role model – modest, selfless, and keen to constantly develop and improve even beyond her lofty levels as a Unity player, achieved so quickly. She’s highly coachable, a real team player, and a massive impact player as well – both in possession and out of possession. She’s going to be a very, very big deal for us, mark my words.’

18RK

Seasons with AFC Unity: 2

Soccer background: ‘I started playing for my local team at age 11. I went on to play for Cumbria, where I played for two years alongside my club.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘It is extremely inclusive and welcomes everyone.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘More media coverage and funding.’

Random fact: ‘I used to play with Georgia Stanway.’

What she brings to the team: ‘Commitment – and always wanting to get the best result possible.’

Head Coach Jay Baker says: ‘Ruth is another Solidarity Soccer graduate who chose to bide her time, not take anything for granted, and earn her spot in the first team, despite her preexisting high skill levels. She chose us, and we chose her. She’s another team player, and a very skilful player who we’ve yet to fully utilise, especially in the wide role. When she beats an opponent down the flank, I call it “The Kennedy Assassination.”‘

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Breakout Award winner, 2018/19 season

Seasons with AFC Unity: 2

Soccer background: ‘I used to play any type of sport when I was younger and football grabbed my attention the most. I played at school and for a youth development squad. However, since school days, I haven’t played!’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘It’s all about being positive and empowering women to play sport, which I love. It stands out as a positive community project and not just a football team.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘More encouragement for girls to play at an early age.’

Random fact: ‘I was born in Nazareth in Israel!’

What she brings to the team: ‘I would work hard to encourage others, stay positive and bring a smile!’

Head Coach Jay Baker says: ‘Pippa is an incredibly coachable, unassuming player who just exploded onto the scene, hence her Breakout Award in her first season because don’t let her demeanour fool you: when she’s on the pitch, it’s “hard rock football” all the way, with a composure and skill on the ball and an energy and power off the ball that makes her a great reflection of our playing style. The thought of her being even better than she is actually scares me.’

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Solidarity Award winner, 2017/18 season

Seasons with AFC Unity: 6

Soccer background: ‘I’ve always enjoyed football, just never had the opportunity to play it – and then I just thought, “I’m too old to play now,” and passed it off…then I came across AFC Unity and I got to know about the Saturday introductory training sessions that were taking place at the time so I decided to go along to them. I then got asked to train with the first team, then to register, and played the final few matches of the first season, which was a brilliant feeling to say I hadn’t played for a team before! The rest is history and here I am playing my fifth season. Bring it on!’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘It’s a friendly atmosphere, everybody respects each other for who they are, there’s nobody shouting at you from the sidelines unless it’s for encouragement, and there’s never any negativity, just praise, no matter how we have played.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘I think it needs more recognition and more opportunities for women to play, as for me personally I have found it’s a great way to boost my confidence.’

Random fact: ‘I once trained as a mechanic.’

What she brings to the team: ‘A positive attitude and a willingness to win! #neversaynever!’

Head Coach Jay Baker says: ‘Jodie is another player who was here in Unity right at the beginning, and other than a brief break has been with us all the way since then, through thick and thin. She has played in different positions, both wide and up front, but in attacking midfield we have truly unlocked her skills, and she is now looking like a star in the making, playing the best football she ever has. She is another player who will decide her own limitations, in my opinion.’

Seasons with AFC Unity: 1

Soccer background: ‘I’ve played football from quite a young age – playing with the kids on my street! I played up until open age and a short stint at university.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘The community focused and positive ethos.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘More funding and more exposure/publicity.’

Random fact: ‘I organise a feminist book club in Sheffield.’

What she brings to the team: ‘I have a good strategic vision and can read the game well.’

Head Coach Jay Baker says: ‘Alex is yet another Solidarity Soccer graduate which again demonstrates how successful and productive that programme is. However, she already possessed the ability and the attitude to be a Unity player and fit our style really well, in the way she conducts herself as well as the “hard rock football” she plays. She’s way better than even she realises and she’s going to be a very, very important player for us in the future, I have no doubt.’

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Seasons with AFC Unity: 4

Soccer background: ‘I have a younger brother and we used to play football out in the street and backyard. Growing up there were no girls’ teams around so I had to play with my brother and his friends, as my friends were not into football. About eighteen years ago I started playing five-a-side football and in a five-a-side league. Earlier this year I played in the FA Peoples Cup, again five-a-side in the female veterans’ league, and we were runners up.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘Everyone is encouraged to try new skills and to never be afraid of making mistakes. It’s such a friendly team to be involved with.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘More media coverage. After the Women’s World Cup there was a lot more interest in the women’s game, and that needs to be maintained.’

Random fact: ‘I’ve got an allotment.’

What she brings to the team: ‘Commitment and an ability to keep running till the end of the match – and I want to keep on learning and improving my game.’

Head Coach Jay Baker says: ‘Michelle defies any and all odds and expectations, a player who came into the first team and fought for her place and maintained a key role on her own merits, and has fit right in. I call her the “machine gunner” because she’s got one gear, and that’s full-throttle, rat-a-tat-tat! A good person and role model, I’d advise new players to pick her brain on how to get ahead and rise up and thrive in this club.’

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Seasons with AFC Unity: 4

Soccer background: ‘Used to play when I was younger, gave up for years as the manager thought he was a Sargent Major in the army. Found AFC Unity on Facebook and here we are 3 seasons later.’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘The manager is dead nice, believes in us all and gives us all the confidence we need to believe in ourselves.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘More women playing, better coverage on TV.’

Random fact: ‘The most expensive and posh (sort of) car I’ve driven is a Ford Mustang GT Fastback. The perks of working in the motor industry.’

What she brings to the team: ‘Confidence, being helpful and charismatic.’

Head Coach Jay Baker says: ‘Lisa appreciates, and values, and basks in the Unity ethos to the point of being ultra-partisan and I love having that in the team. She inspires a feeling that it’s Unity-against-the-world, and that passion shows when she gives her all every single time she plays. I think she can be even better than she has been, so watch out.’

Seasons with AFC Unity: 1

Soccer background: ‘As soon as I could walk, my dad had me playing and supporting Newcastle United. Sadly, I stopped at about age 15. Haven’t given up on Newcastle United though. Now I’m back playing, thanks to Solidarity Soccer!’

How Unity is an “alternative football club”: ‘Existing without a men’s team or having “women” or “ladies” in the club name feels radical in itself. However, it’s everything – the way we train, play, and talk is so different and refreshing – especially with the social justice campaigns.’

What the women’s game needs: ‘Where to start?!? Mainly, more support from the federations. Grassroots must be nurtured and the elite level must be well funded, reported on correctly. The support of the men’s teams is needed but the comparisons have to stop.’

Random fact: ‘MC Hammer follows me on Twitter.’

What she brings to the team: ‘I think I’m a bit like a pitbull in terms of playing – I won’t give up!’

Head Coach Jay Baker says: ‘Katie seemed like a Unity player as soon as she came to Solidarity Soccer. There, she waited patiently and utilised that programme to hone her skills further, before finally being able to join Unity’s 11-a-side team – the only one she had her sights set on, and I loved that. To add to that passion for our badge, she’s full of an incredible amount of raw ability, which is already exciting to see becoming unleashed, and I truly believe she is going to be a major, major player for us – both on and off the pitch. From where I stand there is literally no limit to the potential of her involvement in Unity long-term in whatever capacity she ever chose to pursue.’