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Aka breaking down barriers

Papua New Guinea's first female OFC B Licence accredited coach Margaret Aka. Credit: FIFA via Getty Images

Becoming the first woman in Papua New Guinea to receive an OFC B Licence has left Margaret Aka feeling both humbled and grateful.

The former international said the path to this achievement has been long and arduous and without the backing of the Papua New Guinea Football Association and her coaching colleagues, she’s unsure she could have made it to the end.

“I have to take the time to thank PNGFA for giving me the opportunity to be involved in football and the OFC technical team for providing that pathway for me to be an accredited coach,” Aka said.

“It wasn’t an easy road to achieving the OFC B Licence.

“I’ve sacrificed a lot of family time, and the hard work and persistence has paid off in the end. And I certainly wouldn’t have done it without the support and assistance from a lot of great people around me.

“The OFC technical department had a lot of influence over my decision to take up coaching, especially technical director Patrick Jacquemet and former women’s football development officer Nicola Demaine.

“It was through Frederica Sakette, the former PNGFA women’s football development officer, which I got involved as a volunteer so she’s had a big part to play in my coaching too.”

When her playing career came to a close after almost 20 years, Aka knew she had more to offer.

As a volunteer Aka was soon given an opportunity to attend a grassroots coaching course and hasn’t looked back since.

She’s led the OFC Just Play Programme in Papua New Guinea and in 2014 found herself in charge of the national U-15 girls’ team which competed at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China.

It was this opportunity which really set Aka on her coaching journey as she then went on to lead the Papua New Guinea U-17 women’s team to silver at the OFC U-17 Women’s Championship in 2016.

Aka credits the numerous players she has had the pleasure of working with for helping shape her style and philosophy.

“The players I have coached have played a big part in my learning process as I had to deal with different situations in coaching to meet players’ needs, and the demands of the game,” she explained.

One person who believes this achievement is just the beginning for Aka, is Papua New Guinea national men’s coach and UEFA technical instructor Flemming Serritslev.

“Margaret is a very committed person who really understands how to motivate her players to do their very best to solve the tasks she is presenting them.

“She has a very good understanding of the game and is eager to develop her way of playing for the benefit of her players and the team,” Serritslev, who oversaw Aka’s final B Licence assessment, said.

“For Margaret it is a personal victory to achieve the B Licence, but also for PNGFA it is a huge advantage that we now have one more very good, educated coach.

“Education is in all aspects of life, the most important factor for development and I hope that all the coaches we have with a B Licence will strive to achieve the A Licence – not only for themselves, but also for the benefit of PNGFA.”

Wanting to give back to the community is a strong incentive for the 42-year-old Aka, who hopes her story can encourage more coaches to follow the pathway on offer to them in the region.

“I would like to use every opportunity to give back to football and to help kids and young people better themselves, not only in football but in life in general.

“I would also like to help develop more grassroots coaches and provide more opportunities for kids.

“I want to create more development programmes and activities to have a good foundation for football in PNG.”

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