As the Lionesses continue to inspire everyone during this Summers Women’s World Cup, we continue to look at the Rising Stars of the game – in particular the girls who have taken the ‘unconventional route’ to help them achieve their ambition.
15 year old Sophie Afshar currently plays for the London Football Talent Centre, but is looking to go to college in America when she completes her A-Levels.
The no nonsense centre back spoke to us about her reasons, ambitions and talks us through her journey in the women’s game so far.
You are looking to go to College in America in 2026. Tell us why?
I think to get to the top level you need to get a proper football education and development and I think the U.S College system offers you that as well as a much better pathway to becoming a pro. They have the NWSL draft and then you look at some of the Lionesses who have been to college in America, players like Rachel Daly and Lucy Bronze.
So you’ve started to process of looking into this route quite early, how have Soccer Assist been helping you?
Yeah I started the process last December (2022). I play for a JPL Warriors team and heard about Soccer Assist through them. A couple of friends were also interested and applied.
They have been really good so far. They have been helping me think about what Universities would be good for me and where I could go in relation to my grades and my ambitions.
It’s also good getting experience playing in showcase matches through Soccer Assist. I get to play with with girls that are older and stronger than me. When I do go over to America there will be players on the “soccer team” that are up to four years older than me, so this prepares me for that too.
Which Universities have you been looking at and where would you like to go to in America?
I’m thinking more about the University and the programmes and facilities rather than the location. You get to travel the country when you are studying and playing so I will be looking forward to that.
Tell us a bit about your playing style and your inspiration in football?
I’m a centre back, but I’ve played everywhere really. I was a striker before and have played centre-midfield. But I think being at the heart of defence is my best position.
My inspiration in the game would have to be Jordan Nobbs.
Considering all the injuries she’s had, all the World Cups she’s had to miss and how she’s bounced back. It is so inspiring to see her at this World Cup. Technically she’s so good on the pitch and she just doesn’t give up.
I’m an Arsenal fan and I was gutted to see her leave for Aston Villa.
Can you think of a time you faced a particular obstacle or challenge growing up trying to play football?
I started playing football when I was about 11 years old. I remember playing for a girls team and then joining a boys team. I do remember feeling like no one would pass to me and it was hard to be respected.
I also joined a football camp one summer and I was the only girl there. I was one of the youngest players too and I felt like I really had to prove myself and be brave and confident.
I’m so glad that now we are seeing more and more girls teams and girls playing.
As you have got older, how have you managed your time between football, education and a social life?
Right now I see my priority list as football, them homework then social life. I want to go as far as I can in football and I’m ready to make sacrifices to get there.
I don’t neglect my education though, I’ll get home from football and will do homework for an hour or so. After that is when I might get the opportunity to speak to my friends.
There have been plenty of times where I haven’t been able to hang out with friends because I have made a commitment to training. I do get FOMO (fear of missing out) but at the end of the day, I’m sure there will be other occasions where I can hang out with my friends.
They are comfy. The Training shorts have got pockets and that’s a big thing to me. It feels like they are made for me as I feel comfortable and I certainly don’t have to worry about whether it’s going to fall down or if it’s too baggy.
I like how it’s built to a woman’s body, it looks nice and professional.
Do you think there needs to be a difference between men’s and women’s clothing in football?
Well, when I was younger we were always given the boys kits. They were obviously too big and you would end up rolling up the shorts for example. It just wasn’t comfortable and you wouldn’t feel confident, so you wouldn’t play as well as you could.
To see brands like Miss Kick making young girls feel more confident on the pitch, I would say it makes a big difference.
How do you manage your workload in training and matches during your menstrual cycle?
Tracking it is really helpful. There are certain times in your cycle where you might build more muscle or there are times when I might not have had a good training session and it helps to know why that might be.
I feel like I can deal with it, its about getting used to it and adjusting to it.
England are playing Colombia today in the Quarter-Finals of the Women’s World Cup, who do you think is going to win the tournament?
Well, of course I want England to win, but I think Australia will go all the way
And who’s going to win the Barclays Women’s Super League next season?
Hopefully Arsenal. I hear all the other girls have been saying the same thing too. I think it’s going to be their year.
Lastly Sophie, what is your ultimate goal in football?
To play for England, to play in a World Cup, to win the World Cup! I’m not afraid to admit that and to aspire for the top!
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As part of our collaboration, Miss Kick are offering Soccer Assist athletes and followers 10% off this Summer with the discount code MKSA10
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Miss Kick believe everyone deserves an equal chance to perform to their best, on and off the pitch. That’s why they donate 2.5% of every order to their charity, Miss Kick Foundation, who create free opportunities for girls to get involved in the game. They also co-ordinate a Community Programme which enables girls to make friends with others like them who share a passion for football across the world.