Premiering on BT Sport in the UK and on Insight TV worldwide in late 2020, Ultimate Goal will capture the journey of 31 women as they compete for the chance to take part in a one-off match in front of scouts from women’s teams around the world. Eniola Aluko, the former Chelsea, Juventus and Lionesses player, will manage the squad alongside BT Sport football analyst and former England national team goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis. Twins Rosie and Mollie Kmita (former players for West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur) complete the lineup of mentors.
This programme is a culmination of BT’s ongoing work with the football associations of the four home nations.
After an open call via social media to female footballers across Europe asking them to apply by sending video applications, a panel of experts which included former international footballer Alicia Ferguson, Rachel Brown-Finnis, Eni Aluko and Rosie and Mollie Kmita, narrowed down the qualifiers to 31 players.
The diverse squad includes footballers aged 18 to 28 and from across the UK and mainland Europe and a variety of backgrounds.
All of the selected players went through a quarantine period prior to being tested and are restricted to the filming site for the duration of the production for the safety of the entire cast and crew.
From the 31 players, will go through intense training and scrutiny at St George’s Park before a final team of 16 will be chosen by Eniola and Rachel to prepare for a trial match against a top women’s football team (yet to be disclosed), which will be attended by scouts from professional teams from around the world. Further details of this game, (including venue) will be released at a later date.
“I am delighted to be hosting Ultimate Goal to give an opportunity and window for female players from around the world to show their footballing talent and potential,” said Eniola Aluka. “The women’s game is fast growing with so much talent available not always with the avenues or that pathway for that talent to be found. It is great to be part of a show that showcases that talent in an elite football environment like St George’s Park. I am a great believer in second chances and am delighted that these players are being given this opportunity.”
Rachel said: “I feel really proud to be a part of the Ultimate Goal Academy, providing an opportunity for girls from across Europe to have this unique chance to get back into the game of football, for whatever reason that they may have either become disengaged or feel they have not had the right opportunity. Our scouting network across the UK, even across Europe is a little bit hit and miss, so this is a really good chance for anyone who thinks they’ve got the skills or the potential or even the full package to be scouted by what is, ultimately, the top league in Europe, the Women’s Super League.
On asked how the cut will be made and who will be making the decision Rachel said: “Alongside our producer, who is also a former international footballer, Eni, Mollie, Rosie and I will be making those decisions. It’s not just about what is on the pitch but we are looking at the players, their conduct in and around the hotel; how they interact with the players. So far it has all been super positive. Pretty much every single girl who is here didn’t know anyone before they got here but they have bonded so quickly, it has been fantastic.
“Clearly this is a unique opportunity for the girls to better themselves and get a better opportunity, it is unprecedented for women’s football on TV. It is also the best opportunity, since I finished playing for me to pass on some of the things I have learnt, not just goalkeeping but how you conduct yourself as an international player and the longer terms benefits of what you learn as an elite athlete and how they crossover into real life and beyond football.”
Eni: So there’ll be one cut. So there’ll be one cut from 31 to 16, and that will be within five day. So, the players have not got a lot of time to show what they’re about but that’s part of the game, it’s part of the pressure of structured professional football. You’ve got to take the opportunities where you can.
On asked how they were enjoying the experience and being at St. George’s Park?
Ronnell Humes: “Yeah, it’s an amazing experience because you didn’t get this opportunity come up often. So you have to grab it with both hands and then just literally expect everything that gets thrown at you.”
Emma Coolen: “Yeah, we were talking about it yesterday that for us players it’s kind of a win-win-win situation, because you can’t lose anything from this. Like the worst case scenario, you get cut and you go home. You’ve had the amazing experience of being here, playing with these coaches, these players, and these amazing facilities. So, we can only win from it so that’s, that’s a great thing.”
And the players reaction to being teammates and competitors for one of the 16 places:
Ronnell Humes: I think it’s a bit hard at first. At first, everyone’s like yeah I got in, it’s all kind of new to everyone. But when you’re on the pitch, it’s a different story because you’re fighting for a place. But at the same time, you want everyone to do well so it’s kind of challenging, but I guess it comes down to who works the hardest really. And who’s willing to put in that extra work.
Emma Coolen: Yeah, I agree. I feel like, compared to playing at club level, at least in my experiences, at club level you want to play; you want to make the team better. Also, the coach wants to win. And here, from day one that we’ve all been here, you can really feel the atmosphere. Of course, everybody wants to make the cut. But everyone is like we got to make each other better. We got to, you know, let everyone… I’m not here to just showcase myself, and that’s not something that was told to us or that one person said, that’s something that kind of organically happened both on and off the pitch. Just we are here to be to play the best football we can; all of us. May the best woman win. And that’s a great feeling.
The selected 31 players include (in alphabetical order):
Ultimate Goal, airing on BT Sport later this year, sees women footballers vie to play in a special match watched by scouts from leading sides. It supports BT’s work with the UK’s four Football Associations to inspire women and girls’ participation in football.