A University of Stirling sports scholar and former Scotland international goalkeeper is turning her football focus onto Malawi.
She hopes to put the combination of her international experience and two degrees to good use, teaching at Kamuzu Academy, a boarding school based in Malawi’s Central Region.
Jo will start her new career in August, teaching physical education on top of running a football coaching programme and volunteering at a nearby orphanage.
Malawi’s men’s national team – nicknamed The Flames – is going strong, but the women’s team has hardly played an international match in recent years, something Jo, part of the University’s International Sports Scholarship Programme and supported by national scholarships Winning Students, hopes to help change.
The 25-year-old said: “I’m going out there with the same attitude and focus as I have towards my football - I want to make a difference. There is so much potential in women’s football at the moment and while the Malawian international team situation isn’t ideal just now, hopefully I can help to improve the women’s game.
“One of my main job roles will be to develop football at the school and establish a community programme. The headteacher tells me there are some really talented sports people at the Academy so hopefully I can help them to achieve their potential.
“My expertise is in goalkeeping, but I’ve been playing football for 21 years and learned a lot at the national academy so I should have the knowledge to benefit them.”
Originally from Aberdeen, Jo first kicked a ball as a 4-year-old during a four-year stay in Norway and has gone on to earn senior caps for her country as well as compete in the UEFA Women’s Champions League with Hibernian LFC.
Now between the sticks at Spartans LFC, she will hang up her gloves for good at the mid-season break next month.
“It has been a tough decision as playing football has been my life, but I have to be realistic about my chances of more caps when the Scotland goalkeeper is also the captain,” she added.
“I will miss the opportunity to play football at the highest level and I’ll definitely miss playing for Spartans. It’s like a family, with a unique team environment I’d never before experienced.
“The Academy has been great and the scholarship support from the University of Stirling and from Winning Students has given me the added academic flexibility to study and play football.
“But I won’t miss getting up at half six for training or all the travelling to and from matches. And it will be nice to get the opportunity to teach instead of being the one getting assessed all the time.”
International Sports Scholarship programme
More than 700 students have been supported by the University of Stirling’s International Sports Scholarship Programme since its launch in 1981. It provides a twin track approach, allowing talented young student athletes to combine their education with high performance sports success. In 2010-11, the programme supports 90 athletes across six sports.
Winning Students is Scotland’s national sports scholarship programme for student athletes. Governed by the University of Stirling as Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence and funded by the Scottish Funding Council, more than 100 high performance student athletes in 27 member colleges and universities across the country are supported with scholarships of up to £5,500 each year