What did you want to be when you grew up?
One of the things I wanted was to play football. I remember when I was younger, going to play football with the ‘bigger boys’ in the field next to my house. I was always the only girl, but it was fun. At Primary School, I could play football and train with the boys, and it was all fine. However, from around 12ish, I wasn’t allowed to play in a team with boys anymore. I had to play on a girls team. This was awful news, not enough girls in my school wanted to play football, and all the youth clubs focused on boys. It was like hitting a brick wall.
I found other hobbies, but I ended up backing away from football and rugby, both sports I had played in my younger childhood. I wasn’t ‘one of the boys’ enough, nor did i have the confidence, to push myself to make myself a place with the boys. I didn’t really feel like I could go out of my comfort zone, and look for a girls team, as none of the youth clubs nearby, had anything. So, other than the odd kick about with my brother, I didn’t really play anymore. But I still had a reoccurring dream of playing for Scotland with Ally McCoist (so much wrong with that).
I didn’t stop supporting football, the opposite. My main team became Dunfermline Athletic, and I also followed Blackpool and Aberdeen. I watched Scotland international games, and in fact still go to at least one away game a year. Football is definately my favourite sport. But it still hurts that I kind of stopped playing, in fact, I remember crying in my bed after school, cause I wanted to play with the boys and play in tournaments.
Mixed playing happens still, in Scotland girls can play with boys, till they hit 15 years old. This means that girls can play with the boys, should there not be a girls team available for them. And there are girls teams now at every youth football club in my local area. This is great, and means less girls give up playing a sport that they love. In some countries in Europe, there is no age limit, or there are mixed teams up to under-21 level. This is great. None of that stuff was in place when I became a teenager in the 90s. I remember me and my friend tried to start a girls football team at High School. A PE teacher supported us, and we scheduled training for after school on a Monday. And then 7 people showed up. It was disheartening, because the school was going to help us get games and stuff. But netball and hockey were more popular with girls, so we were quickly cancelled and forgotten about.
I grew up understanding that I could be a fan, and that’s it. Reccently I have been watching the Woman’s World Cup, held in France. It has been a great celebration of the ladies game. It felt huge because Scotland qualified for the tournament, which was amazing. It’s the biggest stage the woman’s game has had here in Scotland, it was advertised everywhere. Every game was on TV, and I saw these women play the game and live the dream that I had as a wee girl. It was amazing.
The tournament has now finished (USA won), and I hope that football organisations all over the world realise that the girls game needs investment. It’s come a long way since I was little, but it’s moving in the right direction.