31 October 2023
During Black History Month the Women in Football team, along with many of our members, have been reflecting on the ground-breaking contributions made to our sport by black women – but also on the black women who are shaping the future history of the game. As the month comes to a close, we’d love to share with you five names who we think should be shouted from the rooftops in celebration as formidable influencers on both the past and the future of women’s and men’s football.
First up, let’s hear it for the remarkable achievements of Mary Phillip – the Lionesses’ first black captain, winning 65 international caps in all, either side of a four-year break from international football when she became the mother of two sons. Her versatility as a full-back and her ability to excel in both defensive and offensive roles made her a valuable asset on the field, where she won an amazing 22 domestic trophies with Arsenal, Fulham and Millwall.
Mary is also a successful coach in men’s football, as the manager of Peckham Town since 2019, where she won the London Senior Trophy in 2020. In 2021 she joined the FA/PFA-funded Elite Coach Placement Programme to give coaches from underrepresented groups the opportunity to work with England’s national sides, becoming assistant to Lydia Bedford in coaching the Lionesses’ under-18s. At the age of 46 there’s surely much more to come!
WIF member Hector McFarlane has emailed us to wave a flag for another England legend in Hope Powell CBE – a true history-maker if ever there was one. Hope earned 66 caps as an England player, scoring 35 goals, but achieved an even greater impact as Lionesses manager for an incredible 15 years from 1998. As Hector points out, Hope was only 31 at the time, and the appointment made her both the first woman and the first person of colour to manage any English national football team.
Hope famously took the Lionesses to the final of UEFA Women’s EURO 2009, going on to manage Brighton & Hove Albion Women and recently becoming Women’s Technical Director at Birmingham City FC. Her influence on women's football in England and her role as a pioneering coach have left an enduring legacy in the sport. She has been instrumental in raising the profile of women's football and inspiring the next generation of players and coaches.
Staying with Birmingham, the WIF team would like to celebrate our director Lungi Macebo, who has blazed a trail of her own as Chief Operating Officer at St Andrews since February 2019, steering the club through multiple challenges and introducing positive operational change around both the women’s and men’s teams.
With a strong foundation in human resource and operational leadership, her responsibilities vary from overseeing the women’s team to operational and stakeholder management across all company sites. Lungi is a collaborative and conscientious leader, choosing to put people at the centre of all that she does. Having been met with a number of challenges in her current role, she has continued to lead with resilience, determination and purpose, which has often led to success.
Lungi was recently named on the prestigious Leaders Under 40 list, widely acknowledged as an authoritative guide to the new generation of talent rising through the ranks of sport governance in the UK. The accolade makes it a hat-trick of high-profile talent listings following her inclusion in the Sport Industry NextGen Leaders in 2018 and the Football Black List in 2019.
One of the great things about Black History Month is the surfacing of stories that are less widely known than they deserve to be. This week we were delighted to read about the career of Emma Lindsey, who is thought to be Britain’s first black sportswriter and was named best newcomer in the British Sports Journalism Awards back in 1995.
Emma made her name covering boxing – her first love in sport – but her work extended to tennis, ice hockey, motorsport, athletics, and other sports. More recently she has authored chapters in academic textbooks about representation in the media and she’s now studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Brunel University. Emma is now a fan of women’s football too and we look forward to seeing how this plays out in her writing!
Find out more about Emma’s history-making career through this Q&A with Jon Holmes on the Sports Journalists’ Association website.
History can be made by the young as well as the more experienced, and so we’re finishing off with a celebration of Ini Umotong.
Ini has been highlighted by WIF member Emma Davies, who emailed us to say: “I’d like to celebrate someone who is still very much at the start of their professional business career, having retired from professional football last year – Ini Umotong. Having had a successful playing career at clubs such as Brighton and Lewes, and having represented Nigeria in the World Cup, Ini is now the link between adidas and their female athletes. She’s one of the nicest people I know and works incredibly hard – a true inspiration!”
As a Women in Football member Ini is well-known to us here at WIF too, and we can only agree with Emma’s summary! We’d like to mention Ini’s academic achievements too, as she holds degrees in economics from the University of Southampton and the University of Kent. We can’t wait to see where her career takes her next – as well as the inspiration she gives to others.
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