Nor Mustafa exclusive: Joining West Ham Women and Common Goal

Swedish teenager Nor Mustafa has signed for West Ham Women and has announced her decision to join the charity Common Goal on the same day. In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, she reveals the experiences that have shaped that decision...

West Ham Women's new signing Nor Mustafa [Credit: West Ham] ONLY TO BE USED AFTER ANNOUNCEMENT BY CLUB

When West Ham announced the signing of 18-year-old Nor Mustafa from Swedish club Eskilstuna United on Friday, this was her big moment. The culmination of so much hard work.

Nor, the daughter of Kurdish parents who moved to Europe before she was born, would have been entitled to focus on herself. After all, she acknowledges this is a "big step" to the Women's Super League - an opportunity that she is understandably "very excited" about.

Instead, Nor chose to use this time in the spotlight to shine a light elsewhere.

On the day that she signed the biggest contract of her career, Nor also announced the news that she is joining Common Goal, the charitable organisation launched with the help of Juan Mata in 2017, pledging at least one per cent of members' salaries to good causes.

It was a straightforward decision.

"It was without even thinking about it because I want to be a part of something good and make a change," Nor tells Sky Sports.

"I am young and my career is just starting but I already want to give back. This is a big thing for me, you know?

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"Common Goal is not an ordinary charity. Look at the great work that they have been doing with all different types of people on immigration and gender equality, everything.

"This is something that I have been burning for."

Swedish footballer Nor Mustafa
Image: Nor made her name in Sweden playing for Eskilstuna United

It was the example of compatriot Magdalena Eriksson, the Chelsea captain, joining Common Goal that seeded the idea in Nor's mind. But the principles of giving back were rooted in her upbringing and the feelings of empathy with those less fortunate than herself.

As a young Muslim woman in Sweden, Nor was always acutely aware that she was not viewed in the same way as others.

"I have had a lot of challenges and difficulties in my life," she explains.

"I joined a club in Sweden but, in the beginning, it was not easy for me because I did not look like the other girls. You know, the typical Swedish girl with blonde hair and blue eyes.

"It was hard. I felt like I had to score five goals per game for this team. I just did not get noticed unless I did double the work or triple the work.

"I did not get playing time and it was not because I was not good enough, it was because of the way that I looked and the place that I came from. That is just what it was like."

West Ham's new signing Nor Mustafa in action for her previous club in training

With the support of her parents and three sisters, Nor had the mental strength to pursue her dream regardless but she is conscious that others have not been so fortunate.

"I remember one time in training there was a girl who wanted to come and train. She was Somali and she had a hijab. She was very good. Football was her passion and she wanted to do it. You could see that. She wanted to develop and get better.

"But the coaches did not welcome her. They did not even tell her when the next training session was. She was made to feel like an outsider.

"She came up to me and asked what was wrong with her. I told her that nothing was wrong with her, this is just how it is and that she needed to be strong, continue, come to the next training session. But everyone has a different mentality. That girl, she never came back.

"I don't think she is playing football now."

It is a sad story, a reminder of the privilege and prejudice in society. But Nor tells another tale that is more uplifting and highlights the power to spark meaningful change.

West Ham's new signing Nor Mustafa in action for previous club Eskilstuna
Image: Nor is hoping to inspire others to follow in her footsteps

"Let me tell you another story," she begins, with an assuredness that belies her age.

"When I was playing in Sweden, we went to different areas within the city of Eskilstuna where there were a lot of immigrants and we did a football camp for them.

"There was a girl there who came up to me and said, 'Nor, I really want to play football, it's my passion.' She was like me when I was younger. I could see myself in her. She was not the typical blonde with blue eyes. That means it is not easy. It is harder to become something.

"She told me that her dad would not let her play football. She was very sad and did not know what to do. The good thing was that I knew her big brother. I told her I would talk to him. I saw him, we talked, and I told him that his sister loved football and was talented.

"Her brother started to think. His attitude was that if I could do it then why couldn't his sister. He went to his dad and spoke to him to convince him. The next day she was so happy. She ran up to me telling me that her dad supported her now and had bought her new boots.

"That was just a small thing but it means a lot to me because I see myself in those girls, in Sweden and all around the world. That is why I want to be an inspiration to them and to others. With the help of Common Goal, I think we can help many more girls."

It is some responsibility on teenage shoulders but Nor appears unperturbed. Plans are afoot to decide on the particular charities she intends to support. "I saw a camp they did in Lebanon for Syrian refugees. There are some very good ones that I can relate to."

A site visit is in her thoughts one day too. "With Common Goal, you know where the money goes and you can actually go there and see what the money is doing," she adds.

But before all that, there is work to do at West Ham.

West Ham Women's new signing Nor Mustafa [Credit: West Ham] ONLY TO BE USED AFTER ANNOUNCEMENT BY CLUB
Image: Confident of achieving big things under the guidance of Matt Beard

Nor has big ambitions and the drive to match. She knows that if she is going to have the desired impact away from the pitch then the onus is on her to deliver on it.

"I have always been ambitious and I always want to improve," she says. "I am very confident, on the pitch I am a leader. My experiences have made me the person that I am.

"I am still young. I know I am not the finished article. I have a lot of work to do and I am just happy to be at such a great club with great staff who can help me get there.

"All the girls are nice and I like the sessions. It feels good.

"I have heard a lot of great things about Matt Beard, the coach. He has developed a lot of young players to become world-class players. Of course, that is what I want to become. With his help, I don't think that will be a problem. So I am very happy."

No shortage of confidence then and with her family scheduled to visit London soon - coronavirus restrictions permitting - these are exciting times ahead.

Football is a huge part of that. But this is one young woman who is aware of the responsibilities and opportunities that exist beyond the ball.

"Life is not just football," she adds.

"If I can do something else because of football then I want to do it. To give to others and to give inspiration to others. If I do this then maybe other people will do it too, you know?"
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