The Women’s Super League – ladies’ football’s answer to the Premier League – kicks off this weekend, and ESPN are showing the opening match live as Liverpool take on local rivals Everton.
With England eyeing glory at Women’s Euro 2013 following Team GB’s run in London 2012, England internationals and club captains Jill Scott and Gemma Bonner tell RT why now’s the time to sit up and take notice of the women’s game.
Position: Attacking midfield
I don’t think you’d ever imagine 75,000 people turning up for a women’s football match.
But during the Olympics that’s exactly what happened. To get selected for the team against Brazil was a fantastic experience. That day in Wembley was a dream come true, and it will always be something I look back on and see as the highlight of my career.
A lot of people seem to have an opinion on women’s football without even watching a game, but I haven’t come across anyone who’s really watched it and then had a negative comment. One person told me how their daughter dragged them along, but then next time he brought his son along too!
We’ve been back training at Finch Farm, Everton’s training ground since January 3rd. We’re training four times a week 8-10pm, and as well as that we have to fit in extra running sessions and three weights sessions.
I’m allowed to work up to 24 hours a week outside my football contract. During the season I’ll be based in Liverpool, but I also work for Gateshead Women’s Football Academy in Sunderland. A few of the girls are teachers, and it’s particularly difficult for them going on international duty because they can’t take two weeks off just like that. Then again, you’ve got examples like Eniola Aluko, who manages to be both an England international and a lawyer!
I always wanted to be outdoors, Mum always struggled to keep me inside. That kind of developed into a love for football, and I started playing for a boys’ team when I was about six or seven. But when I was eight or nine I couldn’t play with the boys anymore so I had to find a girls’ team.
When I got to senior school I was doing a lot of running as well. I won the mini London Marathon when I was 14, North of England championships… I remember one Sunday running a 1500m race in the morning and playing a cup final in the afternoon! I think I’d run myself into the ground trying to do both, I got glandular fever and realised I had to make a decision between the two.
But when I won a race, it never felt as good as winning a match with the team. I felt quite isolated running by myself. It’s that whole team experience, being able to share a win with all the other girls, which is such a great feeling.
I’ve been called Marouane Fellaini before. We’re both quite tall and play attacking midfield. I don’t mind being compared to him, he’s a fantastic player. I don’t have the mad hair to match, but who knows, maybe if we win on Saturday that might change!
Position: Central defender
A lot of people try to compare us to the men’s game, but I don’t think you can really do that.
You have to take women’s football in its own way, and once you’ve actually been to a game you realise it is very different: women’s football is a lot more technical, the players are very honest, there’s no diving or anything like that. It’s a fair game of football at the end of the day, and you don’t see many of those in this country now!
We’re starting to put football on the map. They broke a lot of records for crowds at the Olympics, and following the announcement that the BBC is going to help coverage, it seems there are people who are genuinely interested in the game now. There’s great support for us, especially on the social networking sites. A lot more people are actually aware of it who never used to think women could play football.
I joined my first club when I was seven; I was quite lucky in that I actually had an all girls’ team to join from the start, as there weren’t many back then. Then I got into the Centre of Excellence at Leeds United and was playing for England under-15’s by the time I was 13. I came on quite young, and the more I got into it the more I wanted to be successful.
We’re all classed as semi pro. Most of the girls have jobs alongside their football careers, but I’m in my final year of uni studying Sports Performance at Leeds Met.
I live in Leeds, which means I’m studying through the day and then having to driving to Liverpool most evenings to train. It’s challenging finding the time, but it’s just one of those things you get on with and do.
Liverpool Football Club have been brilliant with the support they’ve given us. Last week we had an interactive training session with the men. Defending against Luis Suarez was a bit different! In the past it’s been well publicised that the men’s clubs have withdrawn from the women, they’ve tried to stay clear. So it’s a big positive that they’ve actually embraced us now.
Having our first game against rivals Everton on TV is brilliant, and hopefully we can really show what we’re about. When games have been on TV previously, I’ve spotted a few more girls doing their hair before the game! But once you’re on the pitch, the cameras are forgotten.
Watch Gemma and Jill playing live in The FA Women’s Super League on ESPN from 7pm on Saturday 23 March. For player information and fixtures visit fawsl.com