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How Man City turned Shakira into a leader

17 Jul 2019
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Sixteen-year-old has benefited from One City disability sessions and this week took part in the PL/BT Disability Festival

Shakira Honeygen was only one example of how the PL/BT Disability Fund inspires young people when she represented Manchester City at the programme's celebration festival this week.

The 16-year-old has autistic spectrum disorder and has not always found it easy to socialise.

"She didn't really speak much," says her mum Sandra. "You couldn't really get much out of her."

Six years ago, while attending The Birches specialist support primary school in south Manchester, Shakira began to take part in City in the Community's 'One City' disability sessions.

"I felt scared and nervous because I thought I wouldn't know anybody there," she says. "But when I started going there weekly it felt good."

Shakira was the first female Under-16 participant on the programme and her enthusiasm for the game has inspired other girls to take part.

To mark her progress, Shakira was part of the Man City team at the PL/BT Disability Football Festival, held at the Tottenham Hotspur training ground, and which celebrated the work of the programme.

"I feel so honoured to play with [the Man City team]," she says. "I really enjoy playing football. When I score a goal I feel absolutely ecstatic.

"I enjoyed meeting other people, having new friends and learning from the coaches.

"When someone new comes in I give them a hand and make them feel welcome."

'It's given her confidence'

And her mum has certainly noticed how much Shakira has changed over the years.

Sandra says: "The change I've seen in Shakira since she's been going to Manchester City is absolutely amazing.

"It's given her a lot of confidence.

"City's one of the best things that could ever happen to this young lady. I'm so proud of her because she's come a long way."

See: PL/BT Disability Football Festival gallery

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