A simple love for football: Tawana and Tayana’s journey to the England Talent Pathway

Tawana and Tayana first fell in love with football aged just 4 after their older brother introduced them to the game. A scenario that many girls with brothers, whether they want to or not have found themselves in from being the goalkeeper to simply being someone they can pass the ball too. However, for both girls their desire to be involved in the game didn’t need to be forced as they soon started mixing it with the boys on the playground at Primary School, they proved themselves to be worthy on any team as they up representing the school and won a cup competition in a mixed futsal team with very little female representation. Once again, a situation numerous girls across the country will be familiar with but this didn’t dishearten Tawana or Tayana.

In fact, it did much the opposite and enlighten a hunger from them to want to join a team. After a chance meeting with Handsworth Girls who were fundraising in their local supermarket, the girls were invited along to training before progressing in to the U9 team where they were huge successful as they progressed through the age groups.

Similarly, to their Primary school days, the girls excelled in their Secondary school team which is where their talent was spotted by Millie Kenyon from Sheffield Wednesday who nominated the girls to attend a England Talent Pathway event in Leeds. The girls attended the event along with Poppy who made up their trio as they competed in a 3×3 tournament which allowed for the event to be fun and for the girls to really show their creativeness. Despite the nerves, Tawana and Tayana were successful in catching the eye of the FA and their progress is now being monitored as part of the FA Women’s England Talent Pathway opens up the possibility to considered for England Youth Teams.

Millie Kenyon  said: “The Talent Inclusion programme has been a great way for us as a community programme to give girls an opportunity to showcase their football, the chance to access this opportunity that wouldn’t be there for them.  Through our referrals this gives local girls who play for grassroots clubs to access the women’s talent pathway.  The girls I referred Tawana and Tayana both twins who have lots of potential and are very talented young players. Both girls attended our EFL Girls Cup last year, out of over 100 girls that attended this school’s competition both of the girls ability stood out.  Through our partnership with the Talent Inclusion programme I knew the characteristics of a player they look for and could see that both girls had shown these characteristics.”

The Talent Inclusion programme ensures that through existing community activities, female participants with potential can be identified and referred to the FA England Women’s Talent Pathway. The programme is specifically run by EFL Club Community Organisations, who engage with young girls from low social economic communities and underrepresented groups, and looks to refer talented players who may not access traditional talent pathways due to social class, ethnicity and demographic.

Not only were both girls’ avid footballers but they also played basketball for Sheffield Hatters as their parents exposed the girls to lots of different sports as they believed that sport is positive, constructive and enables character-building. Eventually, the girls had to decide whether they would pursue either basketball or football, the two sports they flourished in; both chose football.

As they had made that pivotal decision, they would almost immediately reap the rewards of this as they were offered a trial at women football giants Manchester City. With only one of the girls being offered a place in their academy, the offer was turned down and twins stuck together on their footballing journey.

Currently they are continuing to play for Handsworth, but have also recently had successful trials for Sheffield Schools and Barnsley Emerging Talent Centre which will no doubt ensure the girls continue their upwards trajectory in becoming a future Lioness.

A story that simply started with a love and passion for the game has allowed the girls freedom to enjoy the game and to nurture their talents.