Kaarna lives for women's football in Estonia

The only woman in Estonia to hold a UEFA Pro coaching licence, Katrin Kaarna is doing pioneering work with the Estonian FA and told UEFA.com: "Basically, football is my life."

Katrin Kaarna is a women's football pioneer in Estonia
Katrin Kaarna is a women's football pioneer in Estonia ©Lembit Peegel

Katrin Kaarna has committed herself to the cause of the women's game in her work for the Estonian Football Association (EJL), telling UEFA.com: "Basically, football is my life."

The 32-year-old played at Lelle SK, Pärnu JK and JK Tammeka Tartu and won four senior international caps before deciding to focus on coaching. She was a lecturer on the University of Tartu's sports science programme before becoming the first woman in Estonia to receive the UEFA Pro licence in 2012. "It took ten years to get the Pro licence," she recalled. "I started my C licence courses in 2003. Of course, it was a tough path but I don't regret anything. It has been fantastic."

Kaarna worked as assistant to Estonia women's coach Keith Boanas for nine years, and her efforts with the senior team – and her position in charge of the Under-17 side – convinced her of the importance of coach education in women's football. "If we want to develop the game, we need to develop our coaches," she said. "UEFA's coaching courses make sense. All the workshops and tournaments give coaches the impetus to develop the game across the whole of Europe. This makes me believe the future is bright for women's football coaches in Estonia.

"All of us at the EJL are working together trying to promote the game, and to advance step by step," she added. "Women's football is a very young sport in Estonia but it has grown consistently over the years. We are always thinking about what we can do to improve the game. We educate coaches and stage girls' football festivals and fun days to get more young players involved."

Shortage of players is certainly an issue for her U17 squad. "We don't have many young players to choose from," she said. "We only have 30 or so. A lot of girls this age have just started to play, so it's very important to gather them all together. The most important thing for them is to learn, also from the teams we meet in European qualifiers or UEFA development tournaments."

With her coaching roles, her outreach work and her duties leading the men's C licence programme in Estonia, Kaarna is definitely keeping busy, but it is a life's mission. "I like to work with people and to have kids around," she said. "I just feel this is the job I want to do."

What also keeps her motivated is the knowledge she is making a difference. "We can see the major progress made in the big European countries," she said. "It's really massive. Men who watch top women's matches say: 'Wow, I couldn't even imagine that women could play so well.' It's very positive for the women's game.

"Now it's up to you, girls and ladies ... just come and play," she concluded. "You can make new friends. You will have fun. You will get many more opportunities to go out and see the world, all thanks to football."