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What football means to me

As part of International Day of the Girl, we asked Diah*, a 14 year old Indonesian girl, to explain what football means to her and how the Coaching for Life programme is supporting her. 


I am 14 years old and live in a small, two room house with eight of my family members, my two sisters, mother, brother and aunts and uncles and a nephew.

Every day I wake up at 6am. Every day I am busy trying to earn some money to support my family as my father left a few years ago.

My father left us when my oldest brother was in junior high school. I wish my dad cared about me, my mum and younger sister. That’s why I no longer think about my dad.

People said we should not regard him as our father. Because he’s never provided support for us.

I work because we need the money I earn to feed me and my siblings.

I go straight to the market to pick up supplies to sell for the day before I make my way to school not only for my classes, but also to sell snacks to other children.

I started selling things, and making money in primary school, when I was in Year 3. Soon after set up a kiosk to earn as much as I could to ensure my mother and siblings were happy and safe. I run the kiosk after school and sell things until 9pm. I want to give a better life for my family.

I have met so many child labourers. There are so many abandoned children in my neighbourhood. Because their parents are so poor that they are leaving home to find work, they then have to work to survive.

Sometimes I find it very stressful having to work before and after school and look after my siblings too.

Football and Coaching for Life

I started playing football on the pitches provided by Save the Children and Arsenal Foundation 6 months ago. I started going so I could have some relief from the stresses at home. Not just working but also my siblings squabbles!

To start with I wasn’t really good at playing football, but after I joined Coaching for Life, my mum said that I am getting better and she can see how much I have improved. Playing football makes me really happy, It has given me lots more confidence and made me a stronger girl. So many boys told me I couldn’t play football.

You know, some boys will underestimate girls. They will say “what are these girls doing by playing football?” I have tried to ask my friends to join me so that the boys will not undervalue us. But no one is willing. That’s why I have to join and play with the boys.

I have made many friends, both boys and girls and it has given me a chance to spend more time with friends my own age and not just at school. It feels like a very safe place too and that is nice. It has also shown me how to deal with some problems I have at home, it has shown me to tackle them straight on. Other girls have found this too and this makes me very happy!

Diah, 14, a participant in the Coaching for Life Programme in Jakarta Indonesia, strikes a pose with a fellow team mate.
Diah, 14, a participant
in the Coaching for Life Programme in Jakarta Indonesia, strikes a pose with a fellow team mate.

One of my friends also said that I am being showy by playing football with the boys. I don’t take them seriously. I feel determined to play football even better, because the boys are usually good players and this will be good so that even when we grow up men will not underestimate us.

The football has also given me the confidence and courage to try and change life in Jakarta for other girls in my community. I offered to talk to the government about the issues affecting girls living on the streets and having to work at a young age and asked the deputy of Housing in the Ministry of National Development Planning to provide houses for them.

In the future, I hope to make my family proud and create a better life not just for them, but for all girls living here.


Find out more about Coaching for Life and our work with The Arsenal Foundation here 

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