Over the coming weeks we will be speaking to many of the 14 women participating in the programme which is in association with ‘Women in Football’.
They come from Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Guatemala, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Senegal, Sweden, Switzerland and Uruguay.
Among them is Khadija Timera, who runs a London-based consultancy advising footballers and basketball players about business and legal affairs.
Timera, who is French-Senegalese, was brought up in a working-class Paris district and won a scholarship to study a master’s in business law in California. She is also an amateur boxer, narrowly missing out on qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics.
How did you become interested in law?
I was born in the 18th arrondisement of Paris; the part I grew up in was a difficult area. When my parents divorced I lived in the suburb of Gennevilliers. It was tough but that’s where I got my spirit to strive for social justice. I trained to become a nurse because I wanted to help people. I got involved with the trade union of nurses and we worked together to ask for a salary increase. That was my first contact with law, then I went to the library and bought law books and I couldn’t understand. So I also registered for law school.
What was law school like?
I had self-confidence but I didn’t have the confidence like some of the others at law school who came from a different background. They did not have the same start as me. There was the son of a judge or a powerful lawyer, for example. I applied for a business law prize at the firm White and Case. There were 12 successful people on the jury. They all agreed I should set myself higher goals, that I had the talent to reach the top. They awarded me a prize - and I was admitted to do a master’s at Berkeley University in California - but the most important thing was hearing those powerful people say that you are impressive. I was like: wow!
“I saw the difficulty of competing in Africa: the funds that don’t arrive, the visa that isn’t paid for...”
How did you get involved in sport?
In my first job, in the investment arm of a law firm in Luxembourg, I was only helping rich people to become richer. When I found out that so many football players are ruined after their careers I wanted to help them. When I set up my own consultancy in Paris I came face to face with player agents and financial investment advisors who are not working in the best interests of the clients. They are all about – not everyone but most - are talking about their percentages. One teenaged player signed a three-year contract for a famous club in France and they wanted him to buy a big house. I said you cannot put pressure on him; he may get an injury, he may be transferred.
Were you always an athlete yourself?
I played football on the streets in Paris. I also played basketball and taekwondo. When I started my consultancy about four years ago I took up boxing because it helped me to release the pressure. I went to the Olympic qualifying event and lost in the final in a split decision. I was sad I couldn’t do it but it was a great experience. I learnt everything is in the details. As part of my journey I saw the difficulty of competing in Africa: the funds that don’t arrive, the visa that isn’t paid for, the uniform for the opening ceremony that does not arrive because people took the money. All these athletes with their heads down because they are ashamed. The bonuses that are not paid.
How did you hear about the Ready to Board programme?
I was working with Remy Ebanega at the Gabonese player association and he told me about FIFPRO and the work you do to help players. When I go for a run in Senegal, I see only young men aspiring to be football players like Sadio Mané. I met a player who had played in Turkey but he had not been paid and had come back. If these young guys had someone to talk to, they could play a role. Now I have my consultancy in London. I don’t want it to be a big powerful agency working with famous people. I want to reach out to people with the same aim, people who want to build a legacy.
What was the first week of the programme like?
I felt for the first time I was in a room with strong women like me. At the end of telling each other our stories, we felt that we were just like each other. We really felt that we belong together even though we didn’t know each other.