A passion for football and a great eye for a feature story has won a De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) journalism student a prestigious national prize from the Football Writers’ Association (FWA).
Lara Alsaid, who studies International Relations and Journalism, has been named The FWA Vikki Orvice Student Football Writer of the Year.
Lara is now making plans to head to London this Thursday as a VIP at a star-studded ceremony which will include some of the world’s greatest footballers including FWA Player of the Year winners Erling Haaland, of Manchester City, and Sam Kerr, of Chelsea.
Lara, who plays centre back for the DMU Women’s Football First XI, said: “Honestly, I am just really excited and shocked.
“I am feeling like this has opened a new door for me. Even on Twitter now I have all these football journalists following me.
“It’s a great start to a journalism career!”
Lara wrote a feature about former Leicester City footballer Matty Piper who visited the students last winter.
He talked openly about his struggles with drugs and alcohol after being forced to retire early through injury, before turning his life around and opening a football academy to help others.
Announcing the winner, Jim White, Daily Telegraph journalist and member of the FWA National Executive Committee, said: “[Laura’s] piece about the struggles of the former Leicester player Matt Piper was reckoned by the judges to be an important story really well told. It delivered everything we look for in a prize piece: originality, research and style.”
Lara, who is from Sweden and learned English through her London-raised mother, explained how she came to submit the feature to the FWA.
“We were given the opportunity to meet Matty Piper when he came to class and told us about his life,” she said.
“I was thinking about Matty’s account, and the way he pulled us in, and I thought during the Christmas break ‘why not try and write a story about him?’.
Superstar striker Erling Haaland will be at the ceremony
“What was impressive to me was he lived the life of a professional footballer with a great amount of money but he also revealed something we don’t often hear which is ‘what happens when you retire due to an injury that you have no control over?’.
“It characterised how, as a human, you need to go through tough challenges but it does not mean things will not work out in the end…because it did work out for Matt.
“He talked a lot about being younger and just wanting to play football all the time. He didn’t care about education.
“Now he is bringing education into football through his academy.”
Lara says studying journalism at DMU has been another game-changer for her.
“The journalism classes in Sweden are nowhere near as good as they are at DMU.
“I already feel my work is paying off and everything I have sacrificed - on top of taking out a massive loan to come here – has paid off amazingly.
“Studying Journalism at DMU has really boosted my confidence. When I was shortlisted, I began to realise that sports journalism is not just about writing match reports. I can write about the people in the sport and perhaps now I can be a feature writer for a sports magazine.
“The lecturers – Lee Marlow, Jeremy Clay and Brian Dodds - are incredible. They have had a massive impact on the way I view journalism and have always been so helpful. They have also toughened us all up massively and prepared us for a career.
“Lee was the one who introduced me to feature writing and I have really taken to it.”
Lara’s other passion is football - and Man Utd - and she is proud to be playing for the DMU Women’s First XI.
"Sometimes I do not even know myself why I love football so much. It is the biggest sport in the world and builds communities. If you like football you can talk about it with almost anyone. Football brings people together.
“Being able to spend my days with my team mates playing the game that I love is brilliant.”
Lara’s FWA prize is named after the sports journalist Vikki Orvice who blazed a trail for women in football writing in the 1990s as one of the few female football journalists to work for a mainstream British newspaper. Vikki went on to become athletics correspondent for The Sun and died of breast cancer in 2019.
Posted on Friday 19th May 2023