“In the Spotlight…” Ellie Alladeug – Lifeline FC, N16, Clapton CFC, Renaissance FC & an Inspiration – March 2021

I (Carol Bates) spoke to Ellie about her football journey so far, after seeing so much good that Ellie had created, with football being at the heart of it.  This is a must read piece, full of inspiration, bravery, inner strength and a selfless desire to help others.  I had no idea of the trauma that Ellie had gone through, before we spoke about doing this piece, and with the Sheldon Report being released in the last week, Ellie wanted to speak out to help others.  I have so much admiration for what Ellie has achieved so far and she doesn’t look like she’ll ever stop helping others.  A true inspiration.

Please have a read:


As you go through life, you sometimes meet people who make an impression on you.  Ellie Alladeug is one such person.

It was March 2016 when I first met Ellie (aged 44), as her team N16 was 1 of the other 4 teams we met who went straight to the FA People’s Cup Women’s Vets Final, as there weren’t any other teams in the country who entered the previous rounds!  There were 2 COGS’ teams, in their first ever competitive matches, FURD, Sheffield had a team, the Hackney Jurassics were there and another team, the Wolfies, from Wolverhampton completed the 6.  Most of the teams had brought together women from their past days of playing together and we had never played before.  You can guess the rest, we got battered BUT we had the best time and met some amazing women, including Ellie.   Over the next few years, we met a few times due to the FA People’s Cup and always caught up and had a good laugh and a chat.  After that first meeting when Ellie had come back to playing football, Ellie was inspired to come back into football, for good.

As someone who has followed what Ellie has been doing over the last few years, via social media, I wanted to speak to her and get her inspirational story of helping and giving opportunities to many others to play football.  I wondered what her story was with Clapton Community Football Club, N16, SuperLeague5 and a relatively new club Renaissance FC, so I had a chat with Ellie and asked her some questions….

CB:  When did you start playing football and who did you play with?

EA:  First thanks for inviting me to do this Carol. You are a legend as are the COGS.

So I was kicking a ball from day dot or as far back as I can remember.  Our local team was West Ham and I was a junior Hammer.  I was 5 years old when West Ham last won a trophy in 1980 they beat Arsenal to take the FA cup and I remember the atmosphere (ish). I played football all through primary with the boys. I even kicked a ball on occasion with Paul Ince in a local park before he signed for the YTS scheme at West Ham.  At school we were only allowed a tennis ball at break time so we all got pretty skilled. Aged 11 I got to be the only girl in the West Ham academy for one long glorious summer holiday and even Trevor Brooking complimented my game. I only got to go as I had been mistaken for a boy but still I was super proud of myself and often claim I was the first girl to ever go to the academy. ( which is likely true but I don’t know for sure).

At secondary school I played a bit in the first year undercover as a boy but essentially I was turned away.  Boys only. I was a joke. At secondary it was made clear that football was not for girls. I still played at break and lunchtime as the boys didn’t mind, it was the PE department and the FA rules that stopped me.

I did get to play some tournaments for Millwall Lionesses but then I settled with another team a bit closer to home that doesn’t exist anymore. Football was over by the time I was 13 years old really.

CB:  How long did you play for before you stopped and why?

EA:  I played non stop until I joined this other team, that shall remain nameless. Unfortunately, that was when football was stolen from me. It is hard to talk about but I don’t want to shy away from it either.  The Sheldon Report into child abuse in football was published this week and is focused on the mens game and makes for shocking reading. I have huge respect for all those who were able to speak up.  However, this was and remains an issue in the women’s game too. Safeguarding policies and practices still need improving.

It was the late 80s when I joined the team. Unknown to anyone the coach was already a convicted sex offender. Me and some teammates spoke up in 1989 and he was arrested but he was found not guilty.  I now know thanks to the enquiry that he was allowed to go on and commit further offences before he was finally convicted. The court case was humiliating. It was devastating. The anger had nowhere to go but inwards. Me and my teammates and his subsequent victims were badly let down by the FA and the criminal justice system and we have had to live with the consequences alone. I can but hope that if I speak about it it might be a little easier for anyone else impacted and I hope it will serve as a reminder to all coaches and players that safeguarding is everyone’s business. We need to be active participants and always ensure that no one abuses their positions of power in teams and clubs for both genders and that the FA doesn’t brush this under the carpet now the enquiry is over.

In 2016 I spoke with the Police and the NSPCC who supported the inquiry and that helped me lots but by then something truly amazing had already happened. I had moved to N16 in North London early that year and I met and joined the great N16 WFC.  N16 had just entered their first ever tournament and I joined them just in time. The warmth and the welcome was truly uplifting and much needed at that time.

It was a big year for me as that tournament was the FA Peoples Cup and I got to meet the COGs who as I recall gave me my nickname ‘quick feet’ – which I absolutely love.

We befriended some of you guys and had a giggle and went away saying well if the COGS do it why can’t we…

CB:  Your first game back was in 2016, at the FA People’s Cup Finals in Sheffield, what did you get up to in between playing when you were younger and your comeback? 

EA:  I would sometimes kick a ball in a park given a chance. I also played with some lovely Spanish speaking guys in some tournaments in my mid 20s.  I played part of a season with Haringey in my late 30s but I had anxiety issues around football and needed to find my people to settle and to some extent I probably needed to face my past. Plus the other players were younger and I had become a parent and so I was just plain old busy.

In 2014/15 I worked for a Drug and Alcohol charity and we set up a team for men recovering from addictions called Lifeline FC. It was quite an experience. They were great guys. I used to join in the training games and I like to think they appreciated my skills. That was when I met Shazza who later set up Super5 women’s league. At that time he ran a mens 7 a side league and Lifeline FC joined. He was really accommodating. I made a couple of appearances in that league when Lifeline were short of a player. It was an amazing experience and reminded me how much I did so love the beautiful game but in my mind at that time my football ship had well and truly sailed. I hadn’t met N16 or the COGs yet so I really didn’t know just how wrong I was.

CB:  How did you get your N16 team together so you could play in the FA People’s Cup?

EA:  I didn’t do any of it. I had just moved into the area and so my dear friend Sallie invited me for a drink at the now infamous Shakespeare Pub in N16 in North london. It was quite a night. Sallie knew about my Lifeline FC adventures and had told me she played a bit with friends in a local school hall and I should come along. That night I met the glorious N16 and there may have been some drinking, dancing and even singing. The following week I went along to the school hall and it was fantastic. They had already entered the FA Peoples Cup and it was going to be their first ever tournament and they invited me to join so I did.

CB:  Tell us how you felt about playing again all those years later and what effect it had on you.

EA:  It was huge. It felt so good. The more I played the more it came back to me. Also although I had kicked a ball a bit in the in between years this was different I was in a team. It’s like having a whole new community or famalam.

It’s hard to say what was down to the playing and what was down to being part of a team of super lovely peeps. Either way as my footwork and fitness improved my confidence grew in many aspects of my life.

Ellie looking to take the ball off 2 of our COGS! Quick feet, indeed!

N16 are a very special group of women. We lift each other up and support each other in so many ways and we have a good giggle along the way.

The 2016 FA People’s Cup Women’s Vets Finals – Sheffield. 2 x COGS teams, N16 (black shirts), FURD (crimson shirts), Hackney Jurassics (b&w striped shirts) & Wolfies (white shirts).

CB:  We caught up again in 2018, at the FA People’s Cup in Isleworth, what had you been doing in those 2 years since we first met?

EA:  In 2018 in Isleworth I had just finished my first full season since 1989 in a number 9 shirt. By Isleworth my middle-aged second coming at football had well and truly begun..

I caught the bug at the FA Peoples Cup in 2016 and so when Shazza got in touch about starting the Super5 league in Hackney in my local area I jumped at the chance. N16 were one of the original 6 teams that started that league in 2017. It is a great league and has grown to have over 40 teams and 6 divisions.

N16 as a whole is not ability based but we have a competitive wing who play in the Super5 league.

N16 Competitive Wing

We are effectively in the championship known as Intermediate A and we play women in their twenties most weeks. Our youngest player is late 30s, our oldest is in her 50s. I feel proud that we can hold our own still in that league. Although as my friend always says ‘football isn’t about winning or losing it’s about the moments’ and I wholeheartedly agree.

The FA People’s Cup first round in 2018 ended up with one of our COGS teams playing against N16 in the semi-finals.  COGS lost.

CB:  Following you on social media, I saw posts about how you were getting involved with the local community, especially in relation to Clapton Community FC.  What did you do there and what impact did that have on women and girls in the area?

EA:  Thanks to N16 and football my confidence grew and grew.

N16 Summer 2019

I always supported Clapton CFC as they were local and had great fans and were fan owned as well as famously anti facist. I had started to go to games occasionally. One day I made a comment on twitter about how ‘woke’ they were but isn’t it embarrassing that they didn’t have a women’s team. It was a bit of a friendly dig. Their response though was amazing. They said yes we know we are working on it and will you help? I of course agreed. They now have a women’s 1st team, a development team and they supported and funded me and Julie Leaff  (N16 Goalkeeper) to set up the open access training that led to the 2 x 5 a side beginners squads and the 11 a side beginners squad. It got busy really quick. It was the summer of the Women’s World Cup and the momentum was overwhelming but great fun.

We were inspired by the COGS to do the open access training.

We wanted to create a space for recreational as well as competitive football for women. A space where women who had never kicked a ball could finally have a chance to play in a warm and encouraging environment as well as a space for women who could kick a ball but had been marginalised. We put a call out to beginners, returners and just women of all ages and abilities. So many women came along and we have over 40 players on our books. We get such nice messages from new participants as well. I think it’s a really special space. Football comes with so much baggage for women but in the right circumstances we can dump that baggage and just play and fall over and laugh and help each other get up again.

We initially formed a 5 a side squad out of the players who wanted to see how it was to play a bit more competitively and we put them in the Super5 beginners league.

Then they only went and won the beginners league first season and got promoted to the Flexi League.

Winning the League, with Shazza from Super5League, looking on!

We couldn’t believe it. League Champions in our first season in management with a run of 9 games unbeaten. It is rumoured to be a Clapton record!

After that success we formed a second 5 a side team as we had so many participants who wanted to try league football. They also play in the Super5 beginners league now but still we had women asking to play. Luckily Frendford MSA got in touch and we joined their 11a side beginners league so more women from our training could experience an actual game. I’m super excited to manage the 11s. We played one game at Frenford in between lockdowns last year and although we lost it was glorious. MSA Frendford are a really friendly, special club and it’s a lovely venue.

I think the space we have created with the open access to football womens training is really special and a real example of the Clapton CFC ethos, that it is a community club. Clapton are an asset to the community in so many ways. The Football Supporters Association just gave Clapton the Lockdown Heroes Award as they set up an emergency fund for members who lost jobs and earnings and were struggling.  Our women’s open access players have helped out with the local soup kitchen, Babybank, Orbit Project and more. The E5 Baby bank message me now when they need help packing or delivering and I just put a shout out on the group chat.  I am very proud to be Clapton and once we get the Old Spotted Dog ground in use again I hope you COGS will come visit and let us host you for a game. It is the oldest ground in London and has been played on by many greats including Bobby Moore.

CB:  I’ve also seen that you have a team which plays in the Super5 League and now have another one to enter.  It looks a great League to be a part of, in terms of Recreational Football.  How did you get involved with that and what do you think it brings to the women who play in it? 

EA:  The super5 league has transformed my area and my life. Never would I have thought there were so many ballers around me.

I knew Shazza a bit from the men’s 7 a side league but this league has changed everything for women’s football in this part of London.  It is 5 a side but it is outside on 6 a side pitches. It is fully football, with corners and balls above head height. It is small sided football rather than 5 a side in cages, with no balls above hip height.  I was already playing in Super5 with N16 when Shazza started to create beginners divisions. We now have 2 x Clapton teams in that league and they much enjoy it.  Most of our players in the two Clapton 5s squads had never played competitive football before Super5 and it is a joy to see how much they enjoy it and to see them develop.

Super5 is a safe welcoming space where women of all abilities can play the beautiful game.

Super5 and MSA Frendford came together to set up the 11 a side beginners league so it continues to develop to try to meet growing demand.

Thanks to Super5 hundreds of women in my area get to play week in week out. Many were denied the game as kids or bullied/excluded often to the point that they didn’t know what they were missing. It is righting wrongs and providing football experiences to so many. It is the beautiful game and now it is so much more accessible.

CB:  As well as N16 and Clapton CFC you are now also involved in Renaissance FC too! What is Renaissance FC and how do you find the time to do all this?

EA:  Ha ha yes I have had to accept at times that there are just not enough hours in the day for football.

Renaissance came about because of my friend Tina who introduced me to Daniel Mansaray the legend that set up and runs Renaissance FC.

Renaissance FC

Daniel works in Mental Health and is a Physiotherapist and was acutely aware of the impact of trauma on these young refugees and the power of football to create community so he did something to help.

‘Trauma isolates, the group re-creates a sense of belonging.’ Judith L Herman.

We both deliver therapeutic groups at work and I am super impressed with the way he has brought group work and football together to create something really special.

Daniel wanted help delivering the sessions and he wanted more women involved to ensure it remained recreational and to ensure women refugees were welcomed as well as male. Of course some Clapton players volunteered.  As it is mixed recreational football, we put everyone in mixed teams and play warm up games and then small sided games and it is sociable and friendly. It’s a really special project.

Essentially, Renaissance FC is a mental health project that provides a safe space for refugees aged 16 – 25  who have experienced trauma and loss. The players can come meet people, develop their language and football skills and generally feel part of something hopeful and uniting. As it is a mental health support group we were allowed to continue through this lockdown and it has been a lifesaver, or a pressure cooker release button for all.

I have been on quite an emotional journey with the players learning about their journeys and I feel fiercely protective of them and very lucky to have met them.  Renaissance FC is a real example of the power of football to create community and how important it is for all of us to just play.

Many of the refugees are stuck unable to work or access benefits waiting on home office decisions so if anyone reading this can help please please we need boots, socks and money for travel expenses so they can get to the venue.  Any help will be much appreciated.

Go to @renaissance_fc or the justgiving link is – http://gf.me/u/y7kj3j/

CB:  I have seen some great posts about you on social media about how you inspire others, whether it’s coaching or being part of setting something up.  Have you found any challenges along the way? 

EA:  Yes there are most definitely challenges but as I am part of N16 I feel supported and I have support from Clapton so it feels like any challenges, I have my peeps to help me.

I have much to learn around coaching and really want to develop in that area.  I can be super geeky around tactics and formation but I have had to learn to rewind and focus on the basics first. We need players to pass competently before I start on about the overlap or playing between the lines.

Personally as a player on a physical level I have had to make some adjustments. I had a misspent youth and was not in the best shape for football’s second coming. When I play sometimes I forget I am a middle aged women in a local park game. It becomes the FA Cup Final, the 89th minute the stadium is on its feet and I put my everything into it. I have had injuries as a consequence. Unnecessary injuries.  I have flipped my ankle, broken my arm, even weirdly dislocated my thumb on someone’s hip bone. Diving headers in middle age are not recommended. I have had to learn and adjust my game.  I am so glad women’s football has started to open up and I have been able to find recreational football and coaching. I can still play and it’s not about elite athleticism it’s about friendships, fitness and fun.

CB:  What do you see yourself doing in the future?

EA:  I have a pipe dream that I can retire and become a women’s football scout and travel the world watching football and discover the next Lucy Bronze….

More seriously, I wish I could work with the FA to develop their safeguarding practices. They need all the help they can get.  I worry about young girls coming through. The power of the club and coaching staff is immense. The FA do now meet basic legal requirements around their safeguarding policies but basic is the word. I want to see an innovative properly funded response. I want to see mandatory training for all staff and affiliated clubs about power, control and coercion. Healthy relationship sessions for players and more. I want to see the FA take some responsibility and I think they need help to do so. The FA just do not seem to have the understanding in the organisation. It is just not a diverse enough organisation so it has huge blind spots and limitations. It is such a shame as the skills and knowledge are all out here. Grassroots football definitely represents.

Realistically I hope to get my coaching badges and maybe bring my work and football skills together somehow. Daniel at Renaissance FC has really inspired me.

Daniel’s project really demonstrates how football and belonging to a team can be a life saver for people struggling with trauma and displacement. I know it personally and I have seen it with Lifeline FC and even more so now with Renaissance FC.

I am a substance misuse worker and group practitioner so maybe I can do something with those skills and football together that also pays the rent but we will see. Either way I hope we can all get back out there onto a pitch soon enough.

I look forward to the day, hopefully this summer when we come across you COGS at a tournament somewhere. A lovely sunny summer day full of footie. I will defo be getting the drinks in for us…

CB:  Thanks so much, Ellie, you certainly are inspiring others!  Keep up the great work and we’ll look forward to sharing getting the drinks in! 

If you want to find out more about Clapton CFC’s Women’s Beginners 5s and their new team being launched, you can visit their website here: