“Football is not for girls, nor for boys, football is for footballers.”

“Santander Universities, I will be forever grateful for this trip and everything I have learnt, which I will pass on to as many people as I can.”


Written by Ella Croft
Third-year BSc (Hons) Events Management student
University of Plymouth Ladies Football Team Captain

Empowering event

On day one I arrived in Barcelona and was picked up from the airport by friendly Santander staff. I was given a few hours in my hotel to get suited and booted before heading to a leadership event. The event consisted of five inspirational panelists:

  • Matías Rodríguez Inciarte | Chairman Santander Universities & Vice-Chairman, Banco Santander
  • Susan Allen | Head of Retail & Business Banking, Santander UK
  • Manroop Khela | Head of Transformation & CEO’s Office, Santander UK
  • Maria Teixidor | Vice-Secretary and Responsible for Women’s Football, FC Barcelona
  • Laura Ràfols | Former Player, FC Barcelona

<p>Barcelona Santander Universities leadership event<br></p>
<p>Barcelona Santander Universities leadership event<br></p>
<p>Barcelona Santander Universities leadership event</p>

Some key points and questions were made. Susan Allen explained the parallels between business and sport, for example: leadership, communication and common goals.

Santander are dedicated to supporting universities and challenging equality by promoting ladies’ football with events such as this one.

Maria Teixidor believes that the next generation shouldn’t label footballers by gender. This is supported by FC Barcelona’s recent campaign which highlights:

“Football is not for girls, nor for boys, football is for footballers.”


There needs to be a change

Shockingly only 1% of sponsorship goes towards women’s football, which doesn’t correlate with the 40% of football supporters who are women.

Manroop Khela said:

“Remember how you feel right now; remember the change you want to see and when you get the chance, go and change it.”

Laura Ràfols finished off the conference by saying:

“If you believe, people will follow. Set an example.”

After the event we had a cocktail party followed by dinner with the panelists and fellow captains. This gave us the chance to ask questions in a social setting as well as learn different perspectives from other captains.

It was amazing meeting other captains and we all instantly had a bond. I have gained friends for life brought together through football.

<p>Ella Croft Albert Ferrer</p>
<p>Ella Croft Barcelona beach</p>
<p>Santander Universities Women's football training session Barcelona</p>
<p>Ella Croft Barcelona La Sagrada Familia</p>
<p>Albert Ferrer</p>

Catalan culture

Day two saw an early start with a fresh breakfast ready to fuel ourselves for the day ahead. We then attended a training session ran by Albert Ferrer, a professional football coach and ex-FC Barcelona and Chelsea FC player.

This session pushed us to improve our skills as well as teaching us invaluable coaching techniques and drills to take home to our teams. I may have cheekily nutmegged a few captains too – Loughborough did not like that!

We then had time to explore (get very lost) in Barcelona. This gave us time to learn about the culture and buy the all-important stash for the game later this evening.


The unforgettable Barça roar

The atmosphere was incredible. The game was completely sold out creating an unforgettable roar as the players ran on to the pitch. A moment I will never forget. The final score was 5-1 and it’s safe to say I am now a big FC Barcelona fan.

In the evening we adventured around the vibrant city chanting about the big win. I made great friends with the captains in my league and from the cup games we played this season which were Bristol, UWE and Cardiff. We all went out together and plan to see each other again after this trip.

<p>Ella Croft FC Barcelona</p>
<p>Ella Croft FC Barcelona match</p>

Més que un club

‘More than a club’

On the third day of our trip we had a Camp Nou stadium tour – this was both inspirational and emotional to experience. We had the chance to stand in the commentary box, changing rooms, and run out of the players’ tunnel!

The most amazing part of the tour was watching a video of the progression of FC Barcelona and how far they have come, followed by walking through their inspirational trophy room. We finished off the trip with a gorgeous paella lunch on the beach in the sunshine with the girls.

<p>Camp Nou Stadium</p>
<p>Santander Universities Camp Nou stadium visit</p>

It’s time for a change.
We are the change.

We are only at the beginning of this journey and process, but we will make a change. Women’s football is taking a step in the right direction and I am so excited to be a part of it.

Santander Universities

Santander Universities Scholarships are open to University of Plymouth students (both undergraduate and postgraduate) who wish to undertake a period of research, study or work-based learning in any country within the Banco Santander Network.


Find out more about available opportunities