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England star Rachel Yankey has praised the commitment of female coaches in Botswana to developing girls' football in Africa after spending three days in their company as part of The FA's International Development Programme.
Rachel took time out from her day job of coaching children in north west London to attend a women's football coaching workshop in Gaborone.
The 27-year-old was the main attraction as she joined in to help FA instructors Tony McCallum and Jo Meloni deliver training sessions to a group of 22 female coaches who had travelled from all around Botswana to take part in The FA-run workshop.
Rachel admitted she was taken aback by her first experience of southern Africa and the desire of the women to take part, with one coach travelling two days just to attend the seminar.
"My father is Ghanaian yet I'd never been to Africa, except Egypt," she told www.TheFA.com. "The Comic Relief image of Africa is what I was expecting but Botswana's nothing like that.
"The enthusiasm of the girls for football is massive. Most women players in England make sacrifices and faced prejudice but these girls have far bigger barriers.
"Travelling two days to get here: that's amazing. Another girl told me that when the course finishes she leaves for home at 8am and won't arrive until 6pm.
"Another showed me a scar from a car accident; she can't play any more but is determined to coach. Given the passion for the game and the talent of Africans in other sports, the potential is huge. I don't see why the game here can't be what it is in Europe."
Women's football has increased in popularity over the last 10 years and remains the fastest growing sport among young girls in England. FIFA has also invested heavily in developing female soccer, with the FA taking a lead role in sharing its knowledge by delivering seminars on the subject in its UEFA-CAF Meridian Project partner countries Botswana and Lesotho.
Rachel returned to England after the workshop, while FA instructors McCallum and Meloni travelled to Lesotho to deliver the same workshop. McCallum said: "It was a great experience and I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to go to both Botswana and Lesotho and to be met with such enthusiasm.
"I think that enthusiasm will stay with us for a long time. The participants in both countries showed real ability to coach and we hope that they can take on board what they learnt from the workshops, from us and from Rachel and implement a long-term girls' football coaching strategy.
"The coaches here do face hardship, on and off the pitch. But as long as they keep an open mind and retain their enthusiasm for the game, I think girls' and women's football can prosper."
The FA has demonstrated its ongoing commitment to developing girls' football through its IDP and this is the third time that Lesotho has received guidance as to how to raise the profile of the female game, while Botswana received its first taste of girls' football in October 2006.
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