Image credit: FIFA via Getty Images

Margaret Aka, one of only a handful of women worldwide to have coached a men’s senior club side, was a special guest at Te Kahu o Kiwa – Home Of Football this week in Auckland.

The former PNG international also spent time in Wellington as part of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, participating in coaching courses alongside other OFC delegates. Aka, who holds an OFC coaching B License, said that the key to being a good coach was to develop empathy with players.

“Working with people, to meet their needs – you have to find that balance between you what you want to coach and what people need,” she said.

Aka’s career achievements are aligned to The OFC Women’s Football Strategy, which states that achieving gender equality requires everyone’s involvement, stating that OFC are “ALL IN” for women’s Football.

“There is a lot in football, football is life, it is not just about kicking the ball and chasing it, football promotes a lot of things, respect, being inclusive, health, fitness, creating relationships” Aka said.

Last year OFC launched the Gender Equality Playbook, a tool that explores the barriers and strategic actions required to deliver greater equality in our region. Aka’s experience as a woman in a traditionally male-dominated area such as coaching is something that the Playbook promotes, through her own personal experience.

“To meet the needs of players, that’s what I feel is important as a coach. To help them understand the game so that they can play it,” Aka said.

“Coach the players how to play the game, see them as human beings, not just as players,” said Aka, who played at the top level for 15 years and has been coaching since her playing career ended in 2011.

Her experience has given her a balanced perspective on how to achieve success at the elite level, relevant to anyone playing the game.

“If you want to get to that level…it takes commitment, discipline on and off the pitch. It’s an individual responsibility. It’s not up to the coach to come and force you to do certain things. Some thing you can do personally, some things you can depend on the coach. Otherwise it’s a collective effort from you as a player, from the coaches and the people around you.”