Julianna's Story

Julianna moved to the UK to chase her dream of playing football. She played internationally as a goal keeper for Nigeria, however, was fascinated by English football and wanted to try her chance at playing in the top flight, and trialled for Arsenal.

It was a bold move for Julianna to travel the 4,000 miles to the UK and start her new life in London, however, it wasn’t all plain sailing. She experienced many barriers to starting work in the UK, having trialled well at Arsenal, she failed to get a work permit to play for the gunners. Julianna was adamant she didn’t make the move to just give up on her dream. Since having a child, things started to look up for Julianna, she later signed to play for neighbours, Crystal Palace FC where she played a number of games. Being a female player in the beautiful game, she needed to seek extra work to cover the high cost of living in London and supporting a child. So, alongside juggling her football career, she gained employment with the British Army, where she became the first black female soldier in her regiment.

Julianna took a blow. She was forced to leave the Army and retire from top level football with a debilitating knee injury. This left Julianna worried about her future, and unsure as to what skills she had to gain a career that she was really passionate about.

The Greenwich Local Labour and Business (GLLAB) are a department within the Greenwich Borough Council who help mentor and signpost individuals into opportunities both education and employment based. Julianna was quick to sign up to ‘Run the Club’ and that’s how Vi-Ability first became a part of her journey.

Vi-Ability's Run the Club programme - Paricipant Pathway

Vi-Ability's Run the Club programme - Paricipant Pathway

Julianna reflects on the first time she engaged with us; “having a huge passion for sports & football, I saw this opportunity to join the (Run the Club) programme as the perfect opportunity for me to grow and gain experience in the industry. Even though I engaged a week into the programme, the atmosphere was immediately different to a typical classroom, it was relaxed and everyone was respected and their voices heard”  

The ‘Run the Club’ programme teaches key commercial skills to individuals, allowing them to develop a broad range of skills from community engagement to enterprise and marketing. The programme is hands on, and allows them to try out skills learnt through youth social action projects, designed by the individuals, for the young people they are targeting, this allows each individual to give something of themselves and make a valuable contribution to the community while perhaps learning new skills and improving their health and well-being.

Julianna benefitted considerably from the programme, she goes on to say “ I enjoyed the discussions and feedback given by the trainers and the young people on the programme. It was encouraging, as I left school early, it was my goal to complete the 8-week programme, with the hope that I can gain help to apply to complete my FA coaching badges, which could help my future dream to become an FA/UEFA manager or coach!”

Karl Sear, Greenwich programme leader says, "Julianna was a fantastic addition to what was an already well-jelled group when she joined two weeks into the programme. She brought so much enthusiasm to the group along with some fantastic knowledge and experiences she has previously gained playing professional football at an international level. Julianna was always one of the first to throw herself into as many opportunities as she could and was always eager to take on any advice being offered by our team, other providers as well as her peers."

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Julianna’s enthusiasm and commitment to the programme gave her a unique opportunity to support Thamesmead FC with coaching their junior section, which was a huge stepping stone for her when applying to complete her coaching qualifications.

Since graduation from the Run the Club programme, Julianna has been volunteering as a football coach at Sporting Club Thamesmead alongside completing her coaching badges. She has also been delivering assemblies at her child's local primary school, promoting healthy living and inspiring young people (especially girls) in sport due to her personal experiences.

Vi-Ability have secured funding for another year in partnership with the Royal Borough of Greenwich, and are currently recruiting individuals aged 19+ to join our Run the Club programme in the borough, starting this autumn. Want to find out more about our programme?  Watch here!

The 'Run the club' programme teaches key commercial skills to young people, so they can help turn struggling local sports clubs into thriving financially stable businesses; which ultimately have a positive benefit for the whole community. This programme introduces young people to the commercial management of sports clubs while supporting them to make a positive difference to their local community through social action.