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Millwall Lionesses midfielder Francesca Ali made a guest appearance at the Dagenham & Redbridge FC Community Trust's female football development session on Thursday 11th December at Barking Abbey School.
The Trust were providing football for around 20 players at their Female Football Development Project being run by the Football League Trust. They were delighted to welcome Fran who was the focus of a question and answer session, signing autographs, posing for photos and taking part in an informal kickabout.
Essex County FA Community Coach Sam Robinson assisted at the event, while Development Officers Emma Burden and Nick Emery promoted it to their contacts. The players who attended were regular participants over ten weeks from Barking Abbey in years nine, ten and eleven, and others from the school's sixth form. Some were sporty while others were relatively new to physical activity, so the skill level was varied.
Currently in her second spell with the Lionesses after spending time with Charlton Athletic, Fran is a talent who first broke through the youth ranks at Millwall in 2010. She's regularly captained their Development Team and she made her first full start in the FA Women's Super League title decider against Sunderland. Scott Kerrison, Community Project Coordinator at Dagenham & Redbridge FC, feels her appearance was very beneficial.
"Overall I was pleased with how it went," he said. "It was very nice of Millwall to help us out considering we don't have our own ladies team. This is a long term goal for us, but first we need to generate the interest. The participants were quite mixed as there are students who enjoy football and love taking part in sport and there are others who are not keen on sport at all who come for more of the social aspects."
"It was important for Fran to be there because, if you look at the mainstream media female role models, they're considered to be less sporty. The Olympics brought Jessica Ennis to the younger generation, but females in sport are very rarely covered by the main news channels. Fran showed the girls that there are people who have excelled in female sport and that there are alternatives, as opposed to the likes of Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus."
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