Despite the major challenges of teaching during a global pandemic, 25 students from around the world have arrived on campus and started studying the prestigious FIFA Master course at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).
The latest cohort on the green outside Leicester Castle Business School
The one year course, which is co-ordinated by the Centre International d'Etude du Sport (CIES) and supported by football's world governing body FIFA, involves students dedicating a term of study at DMU's International Centre for Sports History and Culture (ICSHC) before spending a term at both the SDA Bocconi School of Management in Milan, Italy, and Switzerland's University of Neuchâtel.
At DMU, the course is taught by the team at the International Centre for Sports History and Culture (ICSHC), where students learn the history of sports and discuss topical issues and challenges facing the sports industry.
Government rules meant the students, who have come from Africa, North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia, had to isolate for 14 days when they first arrived in Leicester and began their studies online, before being allowed onto campus for the start of face-to-face lectures in October.
The FIFA Master is regarded as one of the world's best sports management courses and earlier this year it was named as Europe's top ranked postgraduate sports management course for a record eighth time.
In a first for the course, which champions gender balance in sport, there are more women than men in the class.
Amra Kubat, who has worked for the Figure Skating Federation in Quebec, said: "I have been nothing but impressed by the welcome the 21st Edition of the FIFA Master has received at DMU.
"I am grateful that we are able to be here in these challenging global times and appreciative of all the efforts put in place by the university to ensure that we can attend our courses in person.
"Of course, James Panter, Martin Polley, Pierre Lanfranchi and our course organizers have done an outstanding job to bring us the highest quality lectures and content despite having to make many adaptations.
"A big part of the FIFA Master experience is meeting and interacting with our diverse group of classmates, exchanging ideas and working together and it would just not be the same if we were not all living in the same place. So, thank you to DMU for hosting us. It is an enriching experience to be here".
Heather O'Keeffe, from the USA, has previously worked as a management consultant with global company Accenture.
She said: "Moving to a new country in the middle of a global pandemic was definitely a unique experience, to say the least, and an interesting way to kick off the FIFA Master Programme.
"Despite all of 2020's craziness, there is no place I would rather be than studying the humanities of sports here at DMU as part of the FIFA Master.
"Just one month in and I've already learned so much from our fascinating lecturers and amazing Scientific Directors. Hands down the best part of the programme has been living with and getting to know the insightful, fun, kind, diverse, genuine, and funny 24 other students in my class from around the world!"
Former national women's basketball champion Fatou Binetou Ba, from Senegal, said: "The FIFA Master 21st edition really is a tremendously rich group of 25 people from 20 different countries; but all united to acquire knowledge on the Humanities of Sport.
"As the first Senegalese FIFA Master student, and female, I'm proud to be part of this journey in Leicester with the International Centre for Sports History and Culture. Everything starts with history!"
Professor Martin Polley, Director of the ICSHC, said: "It's always a pleasure and an honour to welcome the FIFA MA students to DMU, and this year is no exception.
"All of the students are throwing themselves into our Humanities of Sport module, and it's great to work with such dedicated and professional people.
"We have some firsts this year, of course, with some countries represented on the programme for the first time, and the first ever majority female class.
"There will, of course, be some differences this year, but we look forward to working with the class in these extraordinary times, and to help them start their journeys as future sports leaders".
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James Panter, FIFA Master Co-ordinator at DMU, said: "We have a fantastic class again this year and their sense of spirit and togetherness has been outstanding.
"I would also like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to the guest lecturers, industry speakers and sporting organisations I work closely with in delivering the academic programme, for their continued help and support this year.
"It is hugely appreciated by everybody connected to the course".
Previous alumni who studied at DMU have been inspirational figures in their chosen line of sport and attended the FIFA Master to go on and lead institutions around the globe.
They include former Manchester United midfield ace Park Ji-Sung, Emma Twigg, New Zealand double Olympian and World Champion sculler, Sanaa Darawsha, who was the first female Arab Muslim referee to officiate in the Israeli football league, and Eduardo Tavares, who was previously responsible for Chelsea's loan players - such as Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount.
Increasing numbers of FIFA Masters alumni are also entering into non-profit organisations, charities and sports development work to help minorities and people in areas normally deprived of sport.
The DMU module of the FIFA Master course covers themes including Sport and Ethics, The Birth of Modern Sport, Professional Sport in Context, Internationalisation of Sport, Sport and Human Rights, Equality and Diversity, Women's Sport and Sport and Development.
Posted on Tuesday 27th October 2020