Founder of girls’ football club in Tottenham wins award

Adem Ali helps girls in the local area to overcome ‘financial, travel, behavioural, or parental barriers’ in playing the sport, reports Olivia Opara

The founder of a Tottenham-based football club for young women and girls has received a national award for his services to grassroots football. 

Former semi-professional footballer, teacher and coach, Adem Ali received the Nationwide Building Society’s Mutual Respect Award for his outstanding contributions to grassroots football in the local community. The award also recognises his commitment to providing opportunities for young girls from deprived backgrounds to get involved with grassroots football and succeed in the sport, by founding Haringey Girls Academy.

The Mutual Respect Award forms part of the Football Association’s wider Mutual Respect campaign to promote inclusion and equality within grassroots football.  

Adem said: “I only found out after I received an email from the parent who had nominated me! I’m grateful for the recognition and hope I can continue to have an effect on as many people as possible in the game.”

In 2016, Adem founded the Haringey Girls Academy in hopes of changing young women and girls’ accessibility and visibility in football on a grassroots level. The academy is a non-profit club and Adem has ensured that it remains one of the cheapest clubs in London amid the cost-of-living crisis – ensuring girls from low-income families can still attend training. 

Under Adem’s guidance and training, Haringey Girls Academy has become the most successful ACES club having won eight National ACES titles. In 2022 alone the acadmey won multiple accolades with Amber, a U-16 squad member, being handpicked by the Football Association to star in the Women’s European Championship promo aired on BBC alongside Prince William, David Beckham and Beth Mead.

This year, the academy has been invited back for three more ACES tournaments and Adem is hoping for eleven wins this year.

When asked what his biggest highlight at Haringey Girls Academy was, Ali said “being able to see girls who possibly couldn’t play before, whether that be because of financial, travel, behavioural, or parental barriers, is what makes it all worth it.

“Alongside all the coaches and other fantastic people involved at the club, we always try our best to help and support the girls with their journeys.”

Adem runs the academy based on mutual respect, whether that be towards players, coaches, parents, referees, or opposing teams. He supports members to also become coaches, as soon as they’re of age, by providing them with the opportunity to do coaching courses. 

The club now has three qualified referees and seven qualified coaches. 

Paul Hibbs, Head of Advertising at Nationwide Building Society, said: “Mutual respect in grassroots football is integral for its longevity.

“Amongst those involved [in the Respect Programme] – coaches, parents, and volunteers have the highest Positivity Scores. With that in mind, Adem Ali is more than deserving this month for his commitment to the young girls at Haringey Girls Academy and their development.”

Adem Ali hopes to continue improving grassroots football by introducing two more teams to Haringey Girls Academy next season, providing further opportunities for young girls to get involved.

When asked about advice for girls looking to get into grassroots football, Ali said: “Give it a go, you’re never going to know if you love something or not if you don’t try. For new players, I always recommend starting at the level that is good for you to enjoy.

“You don’t want to go straight into a high level as you probably won’t enjoy it. If that means starting low and working your way up, then so be it. It comes back to respecting the game and the skill levels within it.”

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