Former Kenyan international turns to DMU and the FIFA Master to

Making 43 international appearances and captaining your team would be seen by most footballers as reaching the pinnacle of your career, and they would probably be left wondering if there was much left to achieve.

But Teresa Ouko Calleb, who played centre back for the Kenyan national team for seven years, is not like most footballers.

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Teresa in action for the Kenyan national team

Teresa, who is a member of the latest cohort studying the FIFA Master course at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU), is a qualified journalist, psychologist, campaigner for maternity rights, head of women’s football at Kenyan players’ union KEFWA and recently took a seat on the board of the international players’ union FIFPRO.

“I have always been the player who leads on and off the field,” Teresa says. “I captained all the teams I played for, including the national team. I may not have been the most talented, but I was always the most industrious.

“What stood out in the way I related with my team-mates was that they always counted on me to voice our concerns.

“My coach once told me to stop being an activist and just play football. However hard I tried, my mouth either offered a solution or got me in trouble.

“I liked championing our rights and encouraging my team-mates to take courses or even invest their allowances in a business while we were still active, after I realised women’s football was in its developmental stage in Kenya, and it would take a while to fully rely on it in terms of proper earnings.”

Teresa is not the first and won’t be the last when it comes to the roll call of outstanding students to have studied the FIFA Master course.

FIFA Master students spend three months each at DMU, the SDA Bocconi School of Management in Milan and the Université de Neuchâtel in Switzerland.

The programme blends academic theory with experiential learning, including an extensive field visit programme. At DMU, the course is taught by the team at the International Centre of Sport History and Culture (ICSHC), where they study the history of sports and discuss topical issues and challenges facing the sports industry.

It was recently named the best postgraduate sports management course in Europe for a record 11th time.

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Teresa (far right) captaining the Kenyan beach soccer team

“I actually applied for the FIFA Master because some of my friends have been through the programme and I like how the course shaped them”, Teresa says.  “They looked at sporting issues differently and started working for major sports organisations. It was like they were fine tuned for their jobs.

“I felt I wanted to be more of an expert dealing with issues like advocacy, strategy, fundraising and image rights and this course will help me do that. Being a former footballer is not enough when it comes to becoming an expert in these areas.”

Teresa, whose Kenya coach nicknamed her Puyol after the legendary Barcelona defender, first got interested in football through kickabouts with her uncles.

Teresa was then invited by a friend to join in training at club Coastal Queens. Teresa played barefoot as she did not have proper kit but her talent shone and she was signed immediately.

The only diversion in Teresa’s football career was when she became pregnant.

“I took a break in 2013 when I went on maternity leave. I was supposed to be getting a scholarship in America, where women’s football is a major sport.

“I thought having a baby would mean my dreams were shattered. I was entering the peak of my career and was pregnant and I was going to be a single mum.

“I had to stop everything to care for my daughter and because of my background I did not have any money. My family were incredibly supportive and I finally completed a BA in 2021.

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Teresa taking part in the draw for the national FKF Women’s Cup competition

“I am a champion for a proper maternity policy in Kenyan football. If we take time out to have a family there is a perception that we are not now fit enough to play football and we will not hit the same form again. But it is simply not true. We can still play and we can get even better.

“I was back training after three months and then returned to playing with my club and playing for my country.

“Football is work and, just like any other job, footballers should get maternity leave. People should enjoy being parents and should be able to get pregnant.”

There had been concerns about leaving her daughter behind while studying the FIFA Master. But a determination to make the most of situation appears to run in the family.

“My daughter is now nine years old and she was so excited when I told her I was going to study the FIFA Master. I was worried at first about how she would cope without me.

“But she suggested rather than staying with relatives and missing me all the time she could go to a boarding school where some of her friends were studying. So, she tried out the school, and absolutely loved it. It has all worked out fine.

“I am very excited to be here in Leicester. It is an amazing opportunity.”

Posted on Tuesday 5th December 2023

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