Coach Egle Trezzi shares her lifelong love of football and how she is inspiring girls from Tower Hamlets to embrace everything the beautiful game has to offer both on and off the pitch.
Coach Egle Trezzi of Limehouse Laces, a community girls’ football team in Tower Hamlets, has always had an unquestioning love of the sport.
Limehouse Laces FC was started by two local mums frustrated that there was nowhere for their secondary school-aged daughters to play football. Starting with 9 girls in 2013, the club now has over 130 women and girls playing football regularly.
Growing up in Italy, Trezzi knew she wanted to play football, but was not able to do so at school. ‘It wasn’t encouraged, especially for girls. I am talking about Italy. I am 35 this year and I think things are changing and have changed. But back then I was the only girl who wanted to play football in my school, in my village’ explains Trezzi in a strong, clear voice that would leave no one in doubt of her ability to command a football pitch.
Despite this initial lack of encouragement, Trezzi remained a very active child and enjoyed ballet and gymnastics. When she was presented with her first opportunity to play football, she took it by joining the boy’s team at age eight.
‘I was in the boy’s team until I was 13 and then at 14 you cannot play with boys anymore and you have to play with a girls’ team and that is what I did. I have played football all my life and I won’t stop until my legs can’t take it’ said Trezzi as she grins.
When Trezzi is not playing football, she is teaching photography, as a practice tutor at a university in London. Trezzi has previously lived in Tower Hamlets, but is currently based in Walthamstow. However, she regularly returns to the borough as she is a member of London Seaward FC, an independent women’s football club in East London.
Trezzi has been training with the club for the last seven years. It was during these training sessions that she first became aware of Limehouse Laces, as both teams train on the same grounds in Stepney Green.
‘I always saw Limehouse Laces girls training before us and they always needed coaches. They approached my manager (a manager at London Seaward FC) at the time to see if anyone was interested in coaching. I started with them two years ago,’ said Trezzi.
When Trezzi joined Limehouse Laces, she brought with her not only her experience as a player, but also as a coach as she had previously volunteered with the Stonewall FC, an LGBT+ football club. Trezzi has now completed the FA introduction to Football Level 1 and will complete Level 2 this summer.
Trezzi is currently the under-15s team coach at Limehouse Laces. Her team is mixed in terms of ability, skills, and experience. She runs sessions on Wednesdays for an hour and a half and on Saturdays they usually have matches.
Trezzi fully embraces her role as a mentor and hopes to inspire her players to continue to play into adulthood, just as she has. This is of paramount importance to Trezzi, who said ‘the most important thing for me is that last year I started the season with 15 players and I finished the season with 15 players. The most important thing is not losing players along the way and if players keep coming back it means they enjoy it.’
‘Yes, I want them to progress, develop as footballers and become good people, but for me if they are consistent and they keep coming back, it means they are not going to stop playing sports which is what I want mainly.’
‘Because, we know for a fact that there is a lot of data showing girls at the age of 14/15, that is the age where most of them tend to drop out of sports, so it is a critical age and our mission is to encourage as many of them as possible to keep playing.’
For Trezzi, what she loves most about being a coach is seeing the diversity of the players. The club welcomes and encourages girls from every social and ethnic background. ‘So for me, it’s the diversity up to football skill, social background, ethnicity, and race. That is super rich and it is amazing to have diversity in a football team. Also, to see them improving, so quickly as well. So, the best part is the development and the diversity,’ said Trezzi.
But coaching is not without its frustrations. Trezzi states that ‘we compete in a league. But this year the league was a bit disrupted because the teams could never get enough players to play, so we had to withdraw from the league.’
Trezzi explains that the problems the team has experienced with the league are symptomatic of the bigger issues that act as obstacles to girls playing sport.
‘There is a problem with how girls can access sports and how accessible it is to young girls to play football.’
‘There are so many people that play football, but all the facilities are very much occupied by boys’ clubs and men’s teams. We have the same problem with our senior club, it is really, really hard to get proper support and facilities’ states Trezzi.’
One of the ways in which Limehouse Laces ensures every girl has the opportunity to play sports is through offering sponsored places. Trezzi explains ‘there is a scheme where a parent can sponsor another player. So, this gives a chance to someone who cannot pay to still have the opportunity to play. I think this is an amazing initiative.’
Limehouse Laces has a clearly defined football philosophy and believes that football skills are life skills. Trezzi explains that the girls learn so much more than the rules of football. Everything from timekeeping, organisation, reliability, being a good team player to resilience and not giving up in the face of adversity.
‘These are the principles the club is built on, grace in defeat. Being able to lose and to take the loss and be ok with it. Or analyse why we made a mistake and learn from it. I always say it is not a mistake if you learn something from it.‘’
‘So, I think you take them on the football pitch, but when you apply it to life these are really good things to know as you are growing up and developing into an adult,’ said Trezzi.
Trezzi has first-hand experience of how football skills are indeed life skills. Trezzi, through football, has learnt how to ‘adapt myself to different environments because when you are playing different teams you come across different personalities and people’ states Trezzi.
Not only has Trezzi learned vital skills from football, but it has also acted as a form of liberation.‘It was a way for me to express myself. I was good at school but I found sitting down reading and school activity a bit restricting, but when I was playing sports and football, I felt really free.’
‘I was never bad at school, but sports was where I excelled. It really helped me to understand that there was something I really was good at’ said Trezzi.
Trezzi concludes ‘I think the sport has been a massive help for me. It is a massive stress relief.’
Women’s football is growing in popularity, however, in many ways it is still being undervalued. This is clear from the FIFA president’s recent threats not to broadcast the Women’s World Cup in five European countries including Britain, unless TV companies improve their rights offer.
When asked why women’s football was being undervalued in this way Trezzi leans back in her chair and smiles broadly and begins ‘Oh wow. Why? The patriarchy maybe. It is a long answer. Where do we start?’
Trezzi continues passionately ‘I think it is so ingrained in society, that women’s football is not as good as men’s. Well, it doesn’t want to be. Stop the comparison, give players, the facilities, and the financial support they deserve they can probably do what the men do.’
‘If you look at the number of players who have been injured recently, women in the ACL. They want women to play the same number of matches as men, but they don’t get the same support in terms of physio, recovery, and doctors.’
‘We are playing catch-up. Here women’s football was banned for 50 years, so it is playing catch up. The comparison does not work.’
Despite the myriad of obstacles women’s football faces at all levels, with organisation such as Limehouse Laces and coaches such as Trezzi, working tirelessly to inspire our next generation of female footballers, a time will come when women’s football is no longer seen as an inferior offshoot of men’s football, but a great sport in its own right.
For more information, visit Limehouse Laces.
Can you help us?
As a not-for-profit media organisation using journalism to strengthen communities, we have not put our digital content behind a paywall or membership scheme as we think the benefits of an independent, local publication should be available to everyone living in our area.
If a fraction of the local 40,000 residents donated two pounds a month to Poplar LDN it would be enough for our editorial team to serve the area full time and be beholden only to the community. A pound at a time, we believe we can get there.