Girls’ footy set to fly in West Devon!

By Alison Stephenson   |   Editor   |
Thursday 4th August 2022 9:30 am
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SPORT leaders in West Devon are expecting to see interest in girls football sky rocket following the phenomenal success of the England women’s team at the weekend.

The Lionessess beat Germany to take the Euros trophy – causing euphoria in a nation starved of major football successes since 1966 — and the ripple effect is being felt across grassroots level.

Whilst trailblazers like Horrabridge Primary School, which has won the Plymouth Argyle FC Girls Knockout Cup, and Okehampton Argyle, which runs the Wildcats girls football programme, have opened the gates for girls’ football, there is hope that the girls’ game will now be a focus of the school curriculum and new teams shooting up across the borough.

Coach and headteacher of Horrabridge Primary and Nursery School John Clarke said: ‘The Horrabridge girls have been inspired by the success of the England women’s team currently and have analysed how they have been successful in their matches and used this to improve their own play.’

The school’s Blueberries team punched well above their weight and won the Plymouth Argyle Football Girls’ Knockout Cup for the third year running, scoring an amazing 30 goals in their four tournament games and conceding none. Their success extended throughout the season being unbeaten in 30 games.

Naomi Hill, 11, the Blueberries’ top scorer said: ‘It’s been really great to do so well at the same time the Lionesses are playing in the women’s Euros.

‘To win this competition at the end of the summer term is a great way for me to end my time at primary school.’

On a more sociable level, youngsters are taking to the pitch in large numbers with the Okehampton Wildcats drawing in nearly 50 youngsters each week and a group called Girls do Football attracting at least 30 players for weekly sessions with coaches in Tavistock.

Steve Madge, who runs the group in Okehampton, said the FA’s Wildcats scheme was for 5-11-year-old girls and was really popular.

‘I hope this victory by the Lionnesses will give a push to the women’s game and open more doors. It brings a recognition that girls can do it too and will spur more girls to give it a go.

‘The girls tend to play because they love it. You do not always get that feeling with the boys’ game where they have to be the best.

‘The girls still push themselves and learn the skills but it’s different. They can do pretty much everything the boys can do too.’

Steve, who is the sports teacher at Okehampton Primary School and has coached both girls and boys, said it was his daughter that got him into running Wildcats.

‘I have no regrets, I absolutely love it,’ he said. ‘We are now putting in an application to run the Squad Girls which is a programme for secondary school pupils and we hope then to set up a team so we can play league football.’

Parent Natasha Daniel helps at Girls Do Football in Tavistock and takes her two daughters Daisy, 11, and Elsie, nine. Natasha said: ‘The girls are certainly interested in the women’s Euros.The England team are excellent role models with their professionalism. Our girls get so much from the game, such as teamwork, behaviour, confidence, respect for each other and social skills – all the things the England women display so well on and off the pitch.

‘My daughter Daisy was really anxious about going to Tavistock College from her primary. But she knew so many older girls from the football who all looked after her. I’m proud of them, they’re great ambassadors for the sport.’

Daisy said: I’ve played football for a while, but watching the Lionesses gives me the encouragement and belief that I can be a professional too. I am amazed at how well the England team have come on and are better then the men in showing courage and determination.

‘Girls Do Football gives me the chance to have a go at learning new tricks without feeling judged. We all get treated the same regardless of ability or age.

Elsie added: ‘I wanted to start playing football because more ladies have started playing and it wasn’t just men, obviously. Girls Do Football inspires me, it helps me make friends and be better at football which is great!’

In an emotional speech after the Lionessess victory Arsenal striker Ian Wright urged the FA to ensure their glorious campaign leads to a lasting legacy for young girls.

‘This is the proudest I’ve ever felt of any England side. This is what it’s all about,’ he said.

‘...if girls are not allowed to play football just like the boys can in their PE after this tournament then what are we doing?’

Parent Natasha Daniel helps at Girls Do Football and takes her two daughters Daisy, 11, and Elsie, 9,. Natasha said: ‘The girls are certainly interested in the women’s Euros, especially now they’re doing so well.

‘The England team are excellent role models with their professionalism. Our girls get so much from the game, such as teamwork, behaviour, confidence, respect for each other and social skills - all the things the England women display so well on and off the pitch.

‘My daughter Daisy was really anxious about going to Tavistock College from her primary. But she knew so many older girls from the football who all looked after her. I’m proud of them, they’re great ambassadors for the sport.’

Daisy said: I’ve played football for a while, but watching the lionesses gives me the encouragement and belief that I can be a professional too. I am amazed at how well the England team have come on and are better then the men in showing courage and determination.

‘Girls do football gives me the chance to have a go at learning new tricks without feeling judged. We all get treated the same regardless of ability or age.

Elsie added: ‘I wanted to start playing football because more ladies have started playing and it wasn’t just men, obviously. Girls Do Football inspires me, it helps me make friends and be better at football which is great!’

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