Football means everything to Kassandra Missipo,
Playing the beautiful game is all she thinks about.
But over the last year, an ACL injury has prevented her from doing that.
Now back in training, and signed to a club, the 24-year-old finds himself named in the provisional Belgium squad for the UEFA Women’s Euros in July 2022, against all odds.
And when she’s not battling for club and country in midfield, she is fighting for something far bigger: equality.
Missipo is determined to show the next generation that they should not be limited by who they are in the pursuit of their dreams.
“I don’t see myself as a role model, I just live my life,” she told Flair. “If people want to draw inspiration from that, that’s a plus.
“But I do think that I am the ultimate proof that you should not be limited by your skin color or sexuality to chase your dreams.”
Missipo: Speaking up
Missipo is not afraid of speaking up and using her voice.
She uses her status as a professional footballer to talk about a range of issues from racism to homophobia in sport, specifically in football.
But Missipo – whose father is Cameroonian – is determined to look ahead to the future with a positive outlook, and with the belief that her generation will be the last to face racism.
“We have to be optimistic,” she said.
“Although I realise that the problem will not go away overnight because it is so embedded in football culture.”
She adds: “The only way to keep racism out of football is to be tough.
“Not by imposing fines or bans, but by reacting immediately.”
And those reactions include teams coming together to leave the pitch ‘in protest’.
Missipo on coming out
The midfielder – who identifies as a lesbian – is equally as hopeful that coming out in football becomes less of a ‘big deal’.
“In an ideal world we wouldn’t have to come out at all,” says Missipo. “Because such a big deal is made of our sexuality, we remain outsiders.”
She does, however, acknowledge the bravery it can take to come out in the men’s game where it is far less common for players to publicly identify as LGBTQ+.
But ultimately “on the field it doesn’t matter if I like women […], there’s only one thing that counts, and that’s how well I can play football.”
Despite any ugliness she may be seen here throughout the years, Missipo has never lost her love of the game.
And she wants to make sure others don’t, either.
Missipo: Let’s be a voice for the voiceless
The Belgian does not want to stop at just using her voice to speak up.
She wants to use her platform too.
Across Instagram, Missipo has launched ‘Empowerment Loading’ which aims to inspire people globally.
“What will your act of change be in 2022?”
That’s the question she asks of her followers.
She is determined to use her time off the pitch to the fullest, and fight for what she believes in.
And, as seen on her Instagram, it starts with leading by example; so she is doing just that.
“Judgement and discrimination are everywhere,” she narrates.
“Don’t be quiet. Any voice, any action can count in this fight.”
Missipo continues: “Let’s unite and build a better future for upcoming generations.
“Let’s be a voice for the voiceless. No more hiding; it’s time to rise.”
A second chance at the Euros
Now she wants to set the record straight on the pitch as well.
When Missipo received the devastating news of her ACL injury last year, representing Belgium at the European Championships must have felt a world away.
But the domino effect of Covid-19 forcing major sporting events back a year presented a unique second chance.
Named in the provisional squad, she is back training with the national team.
Missipo describes herself as a pit-bull on the pitch, largely operating in the center defensive midfield role.
Her ability to hold on to the ball and effortlessly bridge the gap between defense and midfield could be what secures her seat on the plane in the final squad.
And she is hopeful that one day her homeland can find the kind of success the Netherlands did after their 2017 victory.
“Belgium can follow if the right people can push women’s football forward,” she said.
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