Although the dream of every young footballer is to play in a World Cup, very few will realise that goal even once. Ghana's Ellen Coleman appeared on the global stage four times before the age of 20, including a remarkable three times at the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup. FIFA.com spoke to her about her experiences, her achievements and what to expect from the Black Maidens at Jordan 2016. “We have a lot of upcoming young talented female footballers in Ghana, and they can go far,” she said.
A close history with the U-17s When Coleman was only 12 she was selected to represent Ghana's at the inaugural FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in 2008 in New Zealand. “My first time going to a World Cup, I was hoping for the best as throughout our training sessions I performed very well.”
But an injury prevented the defender from making any appearances. However, the 20-year-old still looks back fondly on that experience. “Unfortunately, I played no part. But it was a fantastic period in my career, as it was the first time I was exposed to different people from all around the world.”
Two years later, the Black Maidens won through to Trinidad & Tobago 2010, and Coleman again made the squad. She says she was very positive going into the event because of her added experience from the previous tournament, but again, there was disappointment as the west Africans lost twice in the group phase against Republic of Ireland and Canada and, even though they secured a historic 1-0 victory against Brazil, they were knocked out. “Unfortunately we couldn’t perform as we expected. But personally it was great as, unlike my first appearance in which I was sidelined, I was part of the first team.”
Having failed to advance to the knock-out stage at their first two attempts, the Black Maidens travelled to Azerbaijan in 2012 full of confidence, a confidence that was obviously not misplaced as the team secured victories against China and Uruguay to reach the quarter-finals. Victory against Japan saw Coleman and her team-mates make it through to the last-four. Although they were beaten by France in the semi-finals, there was a positive ending as Ghana defeated Germany 1-0 in the play-off.
“I was very proud to be part of that team," Coleman said. "I played an integral role in us winning bronze and was so proud of my performance throughout the tournament. The experience I gained from my previous appearances helped me in Azerbaijan. I played to perfection and was very involved. I felt great, as I was one of the experienced players in the team and was able to help the others.”
Dreaming big and bigger Two years after those high times, Coleman progressed to the Ghana U-20 team and was in the squad that travelled to Canada for the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, although she did not play. Ghana's U-20 side has also qualified for the U-20 Women's World Cup in Papua New Guinea later this year, and Coleman has some advice for all of the young Ghanaians. “They need to focus and concentrate on their training and abide by instructions and the rules of the game if they want to attain greater heights in football.”
Coleman, who counts long-time Black Queens captain Adjoa Bayor and Real Madrid's Brazilian defender Marcelo as her footballing role models, is quick to expand on what she feels like young players need to find the road to success. “Focus, hard work, training and motivation from both family and friends.”
When not training with Lady Strikers on Ghana's Cape Coast or dreaming of a call-up to the Olympic and senior national teams, Coleman enjoys reading and listening to music as her hobbies. She continues to live at home with three brothers and sisters. “Just two of my brothers are into football, but my family totally supports my career as a footballer and helps me in all endeavours.”
She started playing at a young age when she first went out with male friends and she says she still remembers the thrill. “It made me so happy,” she said.