Doha, Qatar: When Rayan Mamlouk starting playing football in Lebanon in 2016, she took an immediate liking to the game and saw great potential to bring people together through the sport. Three years later, the 20-year-old Generation Amazing youth ambassador and women's football referee is changing the lives of others girls and boys through the beautiful game – and helping to bring together young people from different communities.
After taking a girls' 'train the trainer' course delivered by the Norwegian Football Association, and learning more about the game at Juventus Academy in Lebanon, Rayan's desire to integrate the different groups living together in her community grew. "Three years ago I began playing football and immediately saw the potential to change the lives of others and help connect people through sport," said Rayan, who's a big fan of Juventus and Cristiano Ronaldo.
"Last year I joined the American Near East Refugee Aid organisation and became a Generation Amazing youth ambassador in order to help bring young people from different backgrounds together. Through our work in schools in the community, we are creating common ground for communities from Palestine, Syria and Lebanon and changing the way people view the participation of girls in sport."
Rayan has been involved with sport since 2010, when she took part in athletics competitions and won awards as a running champion. Since taking up football she has also become an officially affiliated Lebanese Football Association referee for the women's game, and takes great joy from teaching football at a local school to boys and girls between eight and 15 years.
“The most important thing for me is to inspire the young children and give them the life skills through football which will help them contribute to positive change in their community," Rayan explains. "I see a lot of challenges for girls to take part in sports. So through our Generation Amazing activities, we put in place rules in the games which encourage inclusive behaviour and acceptance of one another."
Through her work, Rayan – from the Lebanese city of Tyre – has succeeded in using football for development training to enhance social cohesion in her community, reducing crime and anti-social behaviour, and helping to promote gender equality.
"Having the support of Generation Amazing has been invaluable for me," she continued. "It is inspirational for us all to be involved in a legacy programme of the World Cup in Qatar, an event that we are all looking forward to as the first in the region. Generation Amazing helps me to achieve my goals by allowing me to network with like-minded individuals."
With graduation just around the corner for her Physical Education degree at university, the young community leader is already planning for the future. And she hopes to come back full circle and inspire a new generation of young leaders through an academy of her own. "I dream of doing my doctorate and becoming a professor of physical education, to help develop the importance and prestige of sport within society. When I finish my education, I want to create an academy for girls and boys to be able to play for free."
While she works on those future plans, Rayan is already helping to bring people together and enhance gender equality in her community, one training session at a time.