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  • Iestyn Withers

Profile Feature: Delali Mortty

Updated: Apr 13, 2020

On the streets of Ghana, childhood dreams of making an impact in the English Premier League are ever-present. But for Delali Mortty this was never the case. This helps to explain why moments after sitting alongside England international footballer Andros Townsend, Delali appears somewhat bemused at her position. How is it that this 24 year-old woman, who is "apathetic" to football at the best of times, is at the forefront of education and community engagement in Premier League football academies? Well, she assures me that is a "funny story".

“I’m not overly sure how I got here” Delali says before softly laughing, “I guess it’s funny how life works.”

The bewilderment at her situation almost serves to heighten the extraordinariness of the woman in front of me. Together we begin to put the narrative together, as if this young woman's life events are puzzle pieces for her current reality.

“If I had to think about it, I’ve always been given access to opportunities where I have a voice and can be heard,” she says, taking a moment to sip her coffee. “I developed my voice as a young person, so I feel there’s a need for youth advocacy to be improved across the board.”

Whilst alluding to the “need” for a youth voice, there remains a puzzle piece that still does not seem to fit: why football?

As a founder and director of Player Voice CIC, Delali Mortty is seeking to transform the education youth footballers receive at the nation's top-flight clubs, with a focus on community engagement and social action. However, as the football part of that equation remains difficult to understand, I’m greeted with raised eyebrows and informed "sometimes things seem to make sense, whilst also making no sense at all".

Though an innately vague statement, the conviction in Delali’s voice seemingly erases all ambiguity. I find myself nodding along in agreement, eagerly waiting for the next puzzle piece to come.

“I don’t really understand football,” says Delali with a beaming smile across her face. “I don’t really care for the game itself.”

As I purse my lips and ready myself to respond, Delali continues to speak and a clarity begins to take over our proverbial puzzle.

“Football can have a bit of a toxic culture, but that’s crazy when you look at how mobilising the sport can be” she says, pausing only to sit up straight in her chair. “It can bring communities together, unite areas and families. Football can be a driving force in our communities.”

Whilst still emanating a semblance of surprise at her position, it's easy to see why both the Mayor of London and Barclays Premier League have put so much faith - and money - into her.

From an academic scholarship to Lancaster University, to converting an unpaid internship into a global management role in the third sector, the woman in front of me is no stranger to exceeding expectations.

But with this current venture Delali is stepping into the unknown, exiting her comfort zone and taking a chance. As we continue to speak, I question why she has launched this company and why she feels like she is the right person for the job. Once again, my questions are greeted with a wry smile and softly spoken answer.

“If I didn’t do anything I’d be doing these young people a disservice. I had the time and I felt like I could, and should, do this.”

With an emphasis on social action, this has the potential to be a landmark project for our national sport; Player Voice CIC can be a game changer for 'the beautiful game'.

“It has the potential to become part of academy structures in a way that is organic and real,” Delali says, eyes wide-open with passion and desire. “It can be built in, accepted and given a home.”

There's a genuineness about Delali's enthusiasm and eagerness, matched only by the infectiously positive attitude she conveys. For a woman with so much on her plate, I am slightly concerned that this interview is taking up too much of her time.

"I'll always have time for the little people", she says before chuckling. "I feel like there's far more interesting people for you talk to than me".

Taken aback somewhat by the sincerity of Delali's humility, I am quick to shower her with the praise she so rightly deserves, for this young woman is transforming young people’s lives on a daily basis. Humility strikes again as Delali, almost blushing at this point, replies "no, they're transforming my life."

“All the young players’ voices are already there. We aren’t bringing up new issues, we are providing an opportunity.

“Young players are not alien to the issues their communities face, they have a passion for these issues and we are merely providing the tools to help them make a difference.”

Making a difference is the primary aim of everything Delali does. Whether improving herself through her work and part-time postgraduate degree, or providing the platform for young people to make an impact, this young woman is seemingly destined to leave a legacy everywhere she goes – including this interview.

“Life is about more than formal education,” she says, leaning forward as if trying to give a life lesson. “We should get involved in our communities, share experiences, impart knowledge and learn from one another. If we invest in ourselves we can become the best version of us.”

Former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly famously once said: “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don’t like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that.”

With Player Voice CIC and Delali Mortty’s passion, football may not become a matter of life and death for the young players in Premier League academies. That said, you can be assured that their lives will become more than just football.

For more information on Player Voice CIC, visit here.

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