Our Community | Conversation with Emma Evans

Kia ora Emma, can you tell us a bit about yourself and where you're currently based?

Kia Ora, I’m Emma, I am 29 years old and I am originally from Wellington. I have been based in Auckland for the last couple of years, but Wellington will always be home! I grew up on the beach in Lyall Bay and it is still the place I return to when I need to reset and feel grounded again. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your mahi and how you started?

I pinch myself every day that I have a career which is also my passion. I am the Women’s Football Development Officer for Oceania Football Confederation, and I am responsible for developing women’s football and women in football in 11 countries across the Pacific.

In some ways I feel I stumbled into my career. I played football from the age of four but had multiple knee injuries throughout my teenage years. During this time, I was lucky enough to have coaches who encouraged me in to coaching, so I could remain involved when I was unable to play. Initially coaching was a volunteer role, but it soon became a paid time job – which was pretty ideal for a student.

When I finished high school, I studied Sport and Exercise at Massey University and spent several years living abroad in the UK and Australia. At the age of 24, following multiple knee surgeries (and the realisation that I had to retire from playing) I decided to return to New Zealand and that is where my footballing career took a new direction. I coached at various levels in both community and elite football, and then spent four years as Capital Football’s Women’s Football Development Officer and National Women’s League Coach. In 2019 I was appointed to my current role as the Women’s Football Development Officer for Oceania Football Confederation.

You played football growing up, what's it like being on the other side of the white lines?

It has been a bit of a roller coaster! Initially coaching was always just something I did until I could play again. I loved helping other people, I loved sharing my passion – but nothing brought me more joy than being out on the field as a player. 

When I eventually came to terms with ‘retiring’ it probably took a couple of years before I realised I could contribute to the game in a much bigger and more meaningful way. It was a really tough transition mentally, but I knew I still had so much more to give. 

As a player you feel so much pride when you represent your team, your region, your family or or your country, but as a coach or when you are developing football on a much bigger scale, that sense of pride is multiplied. You become so proud of other people and what they are achieving, and you are proud of your own work knowing that it is making a difference to a cause much bigger than yourself.

You not only interact with the community of Aotearoa but also the community of distinct Pacific Islands. How do you find that aspect of your mahi?

I feel incredibly privileged to work alongside some of the most strong, passionate and resilient women I have ever met. Working in the Pacific means working with people who are proud of their culture, their community, their people and their sport. Understanding this is integral to creating change. It means the work we do must have a very holistic approach – it is not only about increasing the development and sustainability of football or creating better performances on the world stage, but also about using football as a tool to build stronger, more inclusive communities.

Football organisations is male dominated industry, what challenges do you encounter working as a high powered female and how do you overcome those challenges?

Being a woman in football, or any other male dominated industry, will always come with its challenges. I am very lucky that I have had both male and female colleagues who have supported me throughout my career. But stepping into a meeting room or a board room as the only women or delivering a coach education course to 30 men, will always be daunting. 

I have a great role model at FIFA – Sarai Bareman. Sarai is a New Zealand born, Samoan woman who is the Chief of Women’s Football at FIFA. Sarai once said to me, you have to work twice as hard, you have to be twice as prepared and have to know more than what is required in any given situation. So, I will steal her words here - this really is the reality if you want to not only work but succeed in a male dominated industry. 

I believe it is crucial for women who are in positions of influence to lift other women up. This is something I live by every day. I show up, I try to enable and empower other women to see their potential and I create safe spaces for women to learn, develop and thrive. There is room for all of us and I hope I make it easier for the next woman who comes into the industry. 

Any future plans that you want to give us the inside scoop? The Women's World cup is coming to Aotearoa next year...

This will be the largest sporting event that Aotearoa has ever seen. To put it in to context for our rugby mad nation – the FIFA Women’s Word Cup in 2019 had a global audience of over 1.12 billion, the Men’s Rugby World Cup which was held two months later had 800 million. 

This World Cup is massive, not only for football but for Aotearoa, our people and our economy. So… keep your eyes peeled! Big things are coming

If you could give one piece of advice to young women wanting to pursue football, what would it be and why?  

Work hard, be willing to fail (and learn from it), believe in yourself and respect those around you. 

If you can look back and be proud of the way you have behaved and carried yourself, others will have also noticed this. In football people are always watching. They will notice your attitude, your commitment, the way you treat others – your time will come, but you must earn your spot (both on and off the field). 

Where can people find you?

In Wellington hanging out with friends and family every other weekend! Otherwise:

Twitter - https://twitter.com/emma_evans7

LinkedIn – www.linkedin.com/in/emmaevansnz