SOAS University of London

SOAS student selected to train at Barcelona’s legendary Camp Nou stadium with Santander Universities

1 April 2019

SOAS University of London student Lois Iddles was selected for Santander UK’s initiative to support female talent in both their sporting and professional lives and embarked on a trip to Barcelona’s legendary Camp Nou stadium in March.

Lois was one of a select group of leading footballers from women’s football clubs at UK universities who joined a programme of events, tours and training.  The programme, organised by Santander Universities, is designed to help build critical thinking and management skills for female talent, both through sporting and wider leadership activity.


Lois said “The whole trip was like living in a dream, all the activities were out of this world. From the networking opportunities, to making friends with like-minded people, to getting the chance to watch Barcelona smash Lyon, I couldn’t thank Santander enough for this opportunity. The trip was inspiring, intriguing and incredible, it truly empowered me to want to path the way for women’s football. ”

The activities included a panel event on women’s leadership, with contributions from Maria Teixidor, Board Director & Company Secretary of Barcelona FC; Laura Ràfols, FC Barcelona; Matias Rodriguez Inciarte, Vice-Chairman Banco Santander & President of Santander Universities; and Susan Allen, Head of Retail and Business Banking, Santander UK, with the session moderated by Manroop Khela, Head of Transformation & CEO’s Office, Santander UK.

Lois also took part in a session with Chapi Ferrer, professional football coach and ex-player of both FC Barcelona and Chelsea FC. In addition, in celebration of Santander’s sponsorship of the UEFA Champions League Lois watched Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique and their Barcelona team mates play in the club’s vital round sixteen tie against Olympique Lyonnais.

Emilio Botín launched Santander Universities in Spain in 1996, as an effective vehicle for business investment into its communities.  The programme now has over 1,200 University partners across 20 countries. Santander Universities UK launched in 2007; encompassing 84 universities, and providing over £10m of funding in 2018 alone. The programme focuses on education, entrepreneurship and employability giving all students the opportunity to succeed.

Article on the trip by Lois:

I was recently invited on a trip by Santander to visit Barcelona as one of the leading female footballers in their ‘Santander Universities’ scheme. When I received the itinerary I couldn’t believe my eyes, no way were Santander providing such an amazing experience. But, I was wrong, they were providing way more than that.

The trip started with a networking panel. Held on the grounds of FC Barcelona, the panel included the likes of Ex-Barcelona goalkeeper Laura Ràfols and the president of Santander Universities, Susan Allen. Although the panel mainly discussed women’s football and the rise of investment in women’s football, it also discussed opportunities for women in various sectors, how we can improve equality on a grass roots level and how Santander is helping to path the way for future leaders. To say that this panel was inspiring would be an understatement, it was like an explosion of Information that I will undoubtedly use for the better.

Day two saw us all train with Chapi Ferrer, Ex-Barcelona player, alongside some of his training staff. The session was two hours long and was just enough time to pick up new tricks and make new friends. Thankfully the weather wasn’t too warm that day because I’ve never worked so hard in my life! Chapi definitely put us through our paces. Since then, I’ve brought what I learnt in those two hours back and passed it on to both my team and the future generation of female footballers. That evening, after some spare time in the city, we got to witness something that all football fans dream of, a Champions League game at Camp Nou. The game was a classic, Barcelona played stunning football and won the match 5-1. The atmosphere around the ground was electric and unlike anything I’ve heard in my 10 years of visiting football grounds. Camp Nou is something else. Fortunately the seats Santander provided us with were incredible and gave the perfect view of Messi scoring his penalty!

Despite being the final day, day three did not disappoint. An early start, involving a buffet breakfast, saw us ending up at Camp Nou once more. However, this time we were given a VIP tour of the ground. From the commentators box to the managers dugout, we saw it all. I must admit Camp Nou certainly gives Wembley a run for its money! After the incredible tour it was unfortunately time to return home and to exams. Luckily I came back with new friends and memories to last a lifetime.

I could not thank Santander enough for the opportunity they gave me, the food, hotel, experiences and confidence they provided were well beyond my expectations. These three days felt like I was living in a bubble and I wish they never ended! However, I’ll always have that memory of Messi scoring to keep me going.