As a young football fan, I watched men’s football, most female players my age in the past will have looked up to players such as Zidane and Raul due to the lack of televised and advertised women’s matches.
In the Scottish side of the men’s football, role models were hard to come by mainly due to every mistake players made being picked up by the media. It is great to see the Women’s Euro’s on the TV this year, and watching some of my idols play encourages me to train harder to try to emulate their success within my own team.
Recently women’s football has exploded onto the scene and is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, bringing hundreds of role models to the fore for young players like myself. You don’t have to look much further than our national team to find 20 role models. Across all leagues in Scotland female players have to juggle work with football. Players such as Small, Love and Jones who all play for the national team have to balance work and football.
You would never hear of players like Allan McGregor or Gary Caldwell in the men’s national team having to do this. These women have full-time jobs, they train every day and play at the weekends, some of them have families and manage to juggle all of this to play for their teams and their country.
This determination and drive gives girls like myself, the inspiration to dig deep when I am tired after a hard week at school and to get the best out of training sessions.
My team trains twice a week and play on a Sunday, however some of the other teams in our league also train every day and having watched the recent Glasgow City documentary on BBC Alba, seeing how much the girls put in to training and work, made me look at them with renewed respect at how hard they work.
Another huge difference between men’s and women’s football is perhaps the commitment to the fans. On the 20th October 2012 Scotland women’s national team played Spain at Hampden in front of a strong crowd of 4,058. After the game finished the players stood for at least 40 minutes signing autographs. When the players were eventually called inside they were very reluctant to leave the fans. It amazed me that after 90 minutes on the pitch they were willing to stand for a further 40 minutes to sign autographs to make the supporters’ day.
I have also had the privilege of meeting Glasgow City midfielder Jo Love and get one of her signed shirts, which she wore in the Euro 2013 qualifying campaign. A friend posted a picture on twitter and asked me whether I wanted it or not and Jo had been tagged in it and asked whether I wanted it signed.
When I arrived at the Glasgow City v Celtic quarter-final of the League Cup the game was nearly finished due to having a match of my own to play that day. Jo went above and beyond the call of duty to make my day and even got her Scotland teammates who play for Glasgow City to sign the shirt for me. I also watched her and her teammates at Recreation Park in Alloa in the league cup final against Spartans and was very impressed at half time when she was out encouraging the very young teams playing to entertain the crowd. She whooped and cheered and willed them to win, despite the fact she hadn’t come on the pitch to play yet. She is a fantastic role model to young women like myself, showing how you should conduct yourself on the pitch at all times.
Perhaps one of the most recognised names in the British game currently is that of Kim Little who currently plays for Arsenal Ladies and Scotland. She moved down to England just aged 16 to play for the Gunners and has become one of the biggest names in women’s football in Britain due to her brilliant performances for both club and country.
She had previously played for Hibernian and Buchan Girls. It must have been very daunting moving from a village in Scotland to London where she would have known very few people, but her passion for the game, dedication and determination led her to succeed in gaining a regular spot in the Arsenal team.
Little has scored 52 goals in her time there, which is a fantastic achievement and makes her an inspiration to younger players like myself. The forward has also played 80 times for the national side, a wonderful achievement at such a young age. Her advice to young players is to work on your fitness and your technique, advice that I use to try to improve my game and my stamina.
Little’s stature within the British game and as a role model saw her crowned the first ever Professional Footballers’ Association Women’s Player of the Year, a huge honour and something for us all to aspire to.