The 10-year-old Liberian girl dreaming of Real Madrid
Ten-year-old Jessica Quachie grew up in a slum in the Liberian capital Monrovia. She started playing football when she was six years old. She was spotted by staff from the Monrovia Football Academy. Jessoca joined the academy in October 2015. It was the first in Africa to start with girls and boys. Co-founder Sekou Manubah wants to give girls opportunities too. In West Africa the female football is not well structured. So it’s very challenging for the girls. They have got to go the extra mile. At the end of the day, it’s a huge challenge for them. But they are trying to change this and give these girls access to opportunities of professional football contracts.
Jessica said she fell in love with football because she wants to be a good football player. She said she is also learning education. Jessica couldn’t read before she joined the academy. Teacher Cecelia Tyler said that her transformation has been incredible. Liberia has the highest proportion of out-of-school children in the world at 62%. The academy’s goal is to become the best school in Liberia. The academy is invited to its first ever tournament and it’s Jessica’s first time on a plane. Jessica and Blessing are the only girls out of 120 boys. Jessica says she feels happy since playing with boys makes her energetic.
It’s also the team’s first experience of the ‘age problem’ in Africa. Jessica said that it’s hard to play since the people they are playing against are much older than them. Age fraud is a massive problem in academy. 26players in Nigeria’s U17 squad failed an age test last year. The team takes a break and visits Abidjan zoo. It’s been a week of firsts for Jessica. Jessica’s academy didn’t win the tournament but she and Blessing were the talk of the week. Jessica’s dream is to play for Real Madrid. But with the international transfers banned by Fifa for under-18s, she will have to wait for a while.