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Asisat Oshoala and Jawahir Roble share their stories with Strong Is…

Barcelona's Asisat Oshoala and pioneering referee Jawahir Roble share their inspirational stories with UEFA Together #WePlayStrong.

Asisat Oshoala and Jawahir Roble
Asisat Oshoala and Jawahir Roble

UEFA’s Together #WePlayStrong campaign has today released two new documentaries as part of its women’s football documentary series Strong Is… which follows the journey of some of the biggest names in women’s football to shine a light on the adversities they have faced in the hope of inspiring more young girls to play football.

In partnership with Esprit, the two-part episode features Barcelona and Nigeria forward Asisat Oshoala and the UK’s first female Muslim referee Jawahir Roble, who openly discuss the challenges they’ve had to overcome both on and off the pitch in their journey to success, and how football played a key role in their lives.

Released ahead of Barcelona's UEFA Women’s Champions League quarter-final tie with Atlético on Friday, Oshoala reveals how playing on the European stage of women’s football could quite easily have never happened.

Barcelona forward Oshoala has claimed four African Women’s Footballer of the Year prizes
Barcelona forward Oshoala has claimed four African Women’s Footballer of the Year prizes

Growing up in an environment where girls weren’t involved in sport, Oshoala had to hide playing football from her family which saw a troubled relationship begin to develop. In her Strong Is… episode, she discusses the difficulty in having to make life-changing decisions without the support of her family at such a young age, with her only beacon of hope being her grandmother who sadly passed away.

It was only when she won the Golden Ball and Golden Boot after she played in the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2014 that she began to rebuild the relationship with her family, and has since claimed four African Women’s Footballer of the Year prizes and represented Nigeria in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

From refugee to referee, Roble also experienced strained relations with her family over her love of football. Roble started as a player on the beach in her home country of Somalia, but when a civil war broke out, she and her family had to flee and came to London to seek refuge.

Jawahir Roble has become a role model for encouraging Muslim women to play sport
Jawahir Roble has become a role model for encouraging Muslim women to play sport

Finding it difficult to make friends when she first arrived, she soon found common ground with people through her passion for football. Her parents didn’t want her to play the game and instead steered her on a journey to university, but she kept playing in secret and found an opportunity in refereeing, which she describes as ‘having the best seat in the house’.

Now, she’s one of the most decorated female referees in the country and has won many accolades for her charity work and passion for encouraging more Muslim women to play sport.

The Strong Is… documentary series plays an integral part in UEFA’s five-year strategic plan to make football the number one sport for girls and women in countries across Europe, becoming a permanent fixture in the wider Together #WePlayStrong campaign, with more documentaries set to roll out in the coming months.

Van de Sanden: "That's what you play for"
Van de Sanden: "That's what you play for"

The first season of Strong Is… gained more than 2,625,000 views on YouTube and featured Chelsea and England forward Fran Kirby, Wolfsburg and Sweden defender Nilla Fischer, and Lyon and Netherlands winger Shanice van de Sanden, who all spoke openly about their experiences with personal tragedy, mental health, sexuality, and self-confidence to inspire and encourage young girls to never give up on their dreams both on and off the pitch.

Strong Is… has also been supported by global pop star Rita Ora and the star of Netflix sensation Stranger Things Millie Bobby Brown, who spoke about the role football has played in her life growing up.

UEFA’s Together #WePlayStrong campaign is changing perceptions of women’s football among teenage girls and young women by showing the sport as cool and aspirational through its always-on digital content platforms, and by bringing together a social community of young players and fans that are united by their love of football. By raising the profile of the women’s game, increasing visibility, engagement and investment and driving participation at grassroots level, UEFA hopes to attract more girls to play the sport.