As a little girl, I dreamt of just one thing: playing football for sold-out stadiums.

That’s why all I did was play football. From sunrise to sunset – I was always with my ball. This made me a bit of an outcast, however it was through sports that I found my voice. It gave me power.

I worked my way up to Jong Oranje, the Dutch national under-18 team, and earned my stripes in street football along the way. Soon I was touring the world as the only female member of Street Legends – famed former football star Edgar Davids’ game-changing street football team. Yet, it was off the pitch that I had my most significant life-changing experience. I travelled to Rio de Janeiro for a TV-program and visited a slum known as a favela. This was a place where people deal with poverty and violence on a daily basis, yet as soon as the ball started to roll all that suddenly vanished as we connected over a shared moment of joy. That is when I truly realized the unique unifying power of street football.

Football is about so much more than scoring goals. It is a means for young people to discover that they themselves are the next generation of role models.

After a knee injury ended my professional football career, I started a new mission and founded Favela Street. A program to help the personal development and growth of young people through the power of street football. Our philosophy: in order to make a positive impact on your community, you must first become the best version of yourself. I want to inspire young people to make a difference and motivate them to shoot for the stars. To help them understand that they matter, so they can free themselves from the image that society projects onto them.

If you tell yourself something often enough, you will start to believe it. Many young people don’t hear it enough that they too can be superheroes.

Nowadays Favela Street is active in the Netherlands, Brazil, Haiti, Curaçao, and Sudan. After years of working with young people from all walks of life – from favelas to high schools and juvenile detention centres – I developed and perfected my own approach and methodology. My method is a science-based approach with measurable results. It aims to tackle the effects of social exclusion with cognitive-behavioural techniques and continuous attention to affirming the belief in one’s own abilities. This is how Favela Street works to empower young people and have a lasting positive influence on their future.

This new approach to development cooperation is clearly making an impact and Favela Street works closely alongside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I’m a consultant for organizations such as Nike and UEFA, and a sought-after guest speaker both nationally and internationally. In addition, I teach the masterclasses ‘Turn Your Skills Into Value’. The BBC included me in the ‘BBC 100 Women’ in 2017 and received a nomination for ‘World’s Most Innovative Women’, alongside Michelle Obama and peace activist Zahra’ Langhi.

My latest triumph on the pitch? A virtual victory: you can find me as the first female character in FIFA20 – still killing it in packed-out stadiums! My main mission is assisting the next generations to score. The innovative methods of Favela Street combined with my expertise in professional football ensure that I always have what it takes to get people moving. Whether it’s in an underprivileged neighbourhood far from home, or in a corporate office in The Netherlands. With or without a ball at my feet.




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Voetbal is veel meer geworden dan zelf scoren. Het is een middel om anderen te laten ontdekken dat ze meer kunnen dan ze zelf denken.

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