West Ham United women’s team were delighted to welcome Sumayya Patel to the Chadwell Heath training ground and give support to her quest for the continued development women’s football.
Sumayya, a nine-year-old Hammers supporter from London, received national coverage when she expressed her wish for equal representation for women’s footballers in video games to FIFA.
The aspiring young player dreams of representing the Irons in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League, but is currently unable to play as her beloved Hammers in EA Sports’ most recent release, FIFA 21, because the Barclays FA WSL is not a playable option.
The opportunity for someone like Sumayya to speak up around this issue is amazing. For a nine-year-old girl to actually challenge the thinking of the powers that be is an absolute credit to her and her family.
In recognition of Sumayya’s pursuit of fair representation for women in football, West Ham United - a Club who has equality at its heart - have also invited her to attend a trial with the women’s Academy.
The women’s Academy, in partnership with Chobham Academy and the University of East London, seeks to promote long-term development of all players, with the likes of Wiktoria Kiszkis, Angie Dunbar-Bonnie and Mia Cruickshank all featuring in first-team matchday squads this season.
Women’s General Manager, Aidan Boxall, is delighted to give the youngster an opportunity to impress in the set-up.
He said: “We have players here that have seen the transformation of the game, from being part-time to becoming a full-time professional game. But there is still work that needs to be done and, for Sumayya to step up, it’s a fantastic thing to see.
“We’ve provided her the opportunity to go on trial in our Academy. We’re making a big push to develop more female players from our local community into our first team.
“I hope, in the next five to six years, we will see the fruition of that, and a big percentage of our team will be made up of girls from the local community.”
Boxall, impressed by the initiative shown by Sumayya in tackling this issue, was only too happy to invite her and mum Sajidah to watch Matt Beard’s Hammers train.
“Sumayya got the new FIFA 21 game and, when she was playing, she realised that there was no representation of club teams for female players, only international teams,” Boxall continued. “She felt that was unfair and it was not equal representation of how the game has gone around the world.
“Football is a universal game that should be open to anyone and everyone. The opportunity for someone like Sumayya to speak up around this issue is amazing. For a nine-year-old girl to actually challenge the thinking of the powers that be is an absolute credit to her and her family.”
Sumayya, her brother and her mum were given a tour of the facilities by general manager Boxall before being congratulated on her efforts by head coach Beard and members of the team, including captain Gilly Flaherty and fellow lifelong West Ham fan Kate Longhurst.
At the end of the session, Sumayya was also presented with a signed football by the entire West Ham United women’s squad.
“I wrote to FIFA saying that the game only had women’s international teams but not domestic teams,” Sumayya said. “It made me angry!
“My favourite team is West Ham and we’ve done a tour, and I’ve met most of the players! I got a signed ball too, so I’ve had a brilliant day!”
Help to support Sumayya's campaign on social media by using the hashtag #GirlsPlayToo