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Scottish Women’s World Cup football

The national football team are on the march again, but this time it’s coach Anna Signeul leading the women to World Cup glory

Scotland are on the brink of qualifying for the World Cup finals. It’s been a while since a journalist has been able to pen that line but this week the nation’s female players could be about to create footballing history.

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Today, Scotland take on Greece at Strathclyde Homes Stadium, Dumbarton, and if they win that game, plus their final match against Denmark away next Wednesday, they will qualify for the play-offs for the Women’s World Cup to be held in Germany next year.

Never before has the women’s side graced the finals and if they do so they will have achieved a level of football that has eluded their highly paid male counterparts since France 98. It will be an outstanding achievement but Scotland’s amateur players will face an onerous task if they make it through to the tournament because they could be pitted against full-time professional teams such as Germany.

Here are the thoughts of some of the women involved.

JULIE FLEETING

Arsenal Ladies and Scotland

PE teacher

Age 29

Caps 116

Goals 113

I love football but my priority now is being a mother. I gave birth to a daughter, Ella, my first child, on July 27, 2009. If she needs me then I’ll be there and I am extremely fortunate in that Anna Signeul, our coach, understands that my focus is on Ella. I may not have the time I once had to dedicate to football but I still want to play for Scotland. I have to say that it’s not easy being a mother and finding time to train but I have to juggle it the best I can.

I’m originally from Kilwinning in North Ayrshire and I play centre forward for Arsenal Ladies and Scotland. I wear the number 10 shirt.

I first played for Scotland when I was 15 years old. The match was against Wales at Somerset Park and I remember it well as I came on as a substitute in the second half. Unfortunately we got beat 2-0.

I’ve scored 113 goals in 116 games for Scotland, which is a record. I was awarded a MBE in 2008 and was voted Scottish Sports Personality of the Year in 2007. My career highlights as a footballer include winning the European Cup with Arsenal in 2007 and scoring a hat trick for Arsenal in the 2005 FA Cup Final win over Charlton.

I played in America for two seasons with San Diego Spirit while studying to be a PE teacher. I loved America and it was a fabulous experience.

I’m a PE teacher at Auchenharvie Academy, Stevenston, Ayrshire and I went back to work just before the summer. I stopped playing when I was 10 weeks’ pregnant and I’ve been back in training since October 2009.

I fly to London on a Sunday morning for a match with Arsenal Ladies and return at night. Sometimes my husband and Ella join me.

With regards to the national team, this is definitely the strongest Scotland squad that I’ve been involved with during my career. There are players vying for every position now and everyone is a lot fitter. Players work a lot harder and dedicate much more time to the game. Clubs now train four nights a week and the girls are given professional advice from dieticians, nutritionists and sports scientists so it’s very professional. Having someone like Anna Signeul full time in charge of the women’s game in Scotland has helped and the SFA has been pivotal to that development too.

I don’t think you could ever compare women’s football to men’s as it is a different sport in terms of physicality. Top female tennis players such as Serena Williams could never compete with Andy Murray, for example, no matter how much training they had. Women are simply not as fast or as strong.

 

RACHEL CORSIE

Glasgow City Ladies and Scotland

Trainee accountant

Age 20

Caps 23

Goals 3

I’m from Aberdeen and supported The Reds as a kid. My great grandfather was a footballer -- Donald Coleman -- who played for Aberdeen, Motherwell and Scotland. That was way back in the 1920s so I’m not the first person from my family to play for the national side.

My first game for Scotland was against France in March 2009. I remember being really nervous about playing with famous players such as Julie Fleeting, whom I’d admired growing up.

I was with Aberdeen Ladies but for the last three years I’ve played for Glasgow City. I play centre half for both my club and Scotland. I used to be a midfielder but after moving to Glasgow City a coach suggested trying centre half and I’ve been there ever since. It’s easier to score goals playing midfield but I’ve fitted well into defence and I’m playing that position for Scotland, too, so it’s been a natural progression.

As far back as I remember I always played football. I played football for Hazelhead Primary School’s boys’ team in Aberdeen at the age of 8. From 13 onwards I played with girls’ teams and had trials for Scotland at the age of 15. It wasn’t until then really that I saw myself having a serious career in football. I’d always played for fun but I studied hard at school as well and made sure that I passed my exams.

I want to be an accountant and I’m about to start my fourth year as a student at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen. This is my honours years so I expect it to be quite intensive. After I graduate I have another three years of professional exams to become a chartered accountant so it’s a long haul and I’ll need to keep juggling football along the way.

I’m on a sports scholarship at Robert Gordon and they’ve been very supportive, granting time off and giving flexibility with course work and deadlines because of my football commitments. I’m also provided with training facilities, nutrition advice and physio treatment. I train four nights a week and do weight training twice a week as well.

To qualify for the World Cup finals would be an absolutely amazing achievement and we’re confident we can do this. We’ve played some of the top teams in the world in recent years and held our own so we are closing the gap at international level.

The matches against Greece and Denmark will be tense but there will probably be more pressure on the Danes as they are top of the group and are favourites.

 

SUZANNE GRANT

Celtic Ladies and Scotland

Community coach for Celtic

Age 26

Caps 78

Goals 10

I’m a forward and I wear the number 99 on the back of my shirt. Nine is my lucky number but when I moved to Celtic one of the other players already had that shirt so I chose 99 and have kept it ever since. I’ve scored 36 goals so far this season so I’m doing quite well.

I’ve been dubbed the Goal Machine by a couple of the coaches at Celtic but I find that a wee bit embarrassing and prefer Granty, which the girls call me. They call me other things as well, including “greedy” because I don’t like to pass the ball. I’m a striker so when I get the ball I shoot. That’s my job so I don’t tend to pass the ball and that’s why I get a bit of stick.

I’m a striker but I play in midfield for Scotland mostly. I’m happy to play any position for my country, though, as it is a tremendous honour to be picked. I was injured recently but I’m now back playing and really looking forward to our last two qualifying matches

I’m from Grantown-on-Spey and as far back as I can remember I only ever wanted to play football. My dad played local amateur football but aside from that there is no great football tradition within my family. I was a fan of Inverness Caledonian Thistle and I played with boys’ teams until I was 15 years old as there were no girls’ teams. My female friends were mostly into other sports but I was football mad. The former Rangers player Jorg Albertz was my hero.

I played for Granton Grammar School and was spotted by a Scotland scout at the age of 14 and had my first full cap against Northern Ireland at the age of 16. I was also a full time player at Ross County at 16. From there I moved to Glasgow City. I would train up north during the week then travel south for matches at the weekend. It was the same set-up when I joined Hibernian Ladies until I moved down from the Highlands.

When I joined Arsenal in 2009 I would train with Hibs during the week and fly to London on a Sunday to play. I now play for Celtic so this is the first club where I’ve been able to train full time with my team mates. I signed last year and I love it. We train five nights a week and I feel that the standard of football in Scotland matches that in England. We’ve got two males and one female coaching us at Celtic but to be honest I don’t think sex really matters.

 

LEANNE ROSS

Glasgow City Ladies and Scotland

Active schools co-ordinator

Age 29

Caps 53

Goals 1

One memory I’ll never forget is wearing the Scotland jersey for the first time while Flower of Scotland was being played. That was very special. I made my debut against Switzerland in 2006 at McDiarmid Park in Perth. I hadn’t expected to play as I’d only just made the national squad so I was completely shocked when I was told that I’d start. My normal position is midfield but for that game I was told to play left back so I was really thrown in at the deep end. We won 1-0 and I think I played well but the game is pretty much a blur.

I’ve kept all my 53 caps and those I received for the most memorable games I’ve put up on walls in my home. Other highlights of my career include winning the league (three times), the league cup (twice) and Scottish Cup with my current club Glasgow City. I’m also very proud to hold the all-time scoring record for Falkirk Girls who I played for when I was 15 years old. I scored 56 goals in one season and no one’s beaten that tally in 15 years.

Low points include today, as I am completely gutted that we (Glasgow City) have just been knocked of the UEFA Women’s Champions League, and by just a single goal. We were underdogs against a team called Duisberg from Germany but after winning our opening two matches we were hopeful of springing a shock.

I grew up in Stenhousemuir and was a bit of a Celtic fan. I played with boys’ teams until the age of 10 and I recall opposition teams becoming quite excited when they saw a girl lining up, obviously thinking they’d run riot.

I work in Clackmannanshire as an active schools co-ordinator. I basically devise health programmes for four primary schools and one secondary.

I work during the day and five nights a week I travel to Glasgow to train. I basically eat, sleep, work and play football. There’s no time for socialising whatsoever as I am 100% committed. You have to love the game to have that sort of commitment and I do, but I find it frustrating sometimes when we play full-time professionals like the Germans as they get well paid and don’t have to work. They don’t have to pay to play either. I pay £40 a month subscription to Glasgow to help the club pay for referees etc and on top of that there’s a lot of money in petrol for travelling.

Mentally, I am prepared for the matches against Greece and Denmark and as a team we are going into these games with a lot of confidence and belief. The World Cup would be a dream come true and if we qualify then it will be worth every single penny and every drop of sweat.

 

ANNA SIGNEUL

National coach

Age 49

I’ve been the coach for the national side since March 2005 but my remit is wide and I’m responsible for the overall development of women’s football at all levels in Scotland. It’s 24/7 but I love my job.

I’m from a town called Falun in Sweden, which is a ski resort, and as a kid I participated in many sports including skating, ice hockey, downhill skiing and basketball. I’d always loved football and supported IFK Gothenburg, who were one of Europe’s great sides in the 1980s under Sven Goran Eriksson.

At 19 I joined a football club called IK Brage and played centre midfield, then joined Gavle where I stayed for the rest of my playing career.

At a national level I made the substitutes’ bench for Sweden a few times but I never actually played and got a cap, which was a bit frustrating.

I stopped playing at the age of 31 and worked as a coach with the Swedish Football Association for nine years before coming to Scotland in 2005.

I very much like my life in Scotland and I even appreciate the weather in Glasgow. The winters here are much milder than in Sweden so it’s a blessing as I was always freezing for months on end back home. I find that when I go back to Sweden many people say they have visited Scotland and how much they love the country, and I think that the Swedes and Scots are similar in that they both appreciate nature.

I feel the national side has developed well over recent years and we are now on the brink of stepping up to the next level. We’ve brought about structural changes to women’s football and that may have helped. For example, we changed the set-up so that the women’s season starts in spring and runs through the summer to November, which means we have a winter break to allow both players and pitches time to recover.

A maximum of six teams from Europe can qualify for the World Cup finals so it’s a massive task. One of my ambitions is to hear the Scottish national anthem played in Germany next year. n

 

EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES

Scottish women’s football has benefited from an extensive overhaul in recent years and the national team is just a step away from the top tier of world football.

According to the Scottish Football Association (SFA) there are currently around 22,000 girls involved in active schools programmes and around 500 girls’ teams participating in SFA youth football programmes. There are around 4,000 players registered with Scottish women’s football clubs.

The way women’s football is played and administered in Scotland has changed significantly over the past five years. For example, the SFA has established a National Women’s Football Academy at the University of Stirling, allowing the most talented female footballers to study their chosen subject while benefiting from a football and sports science programme. Three regional football academies have also been formed, linking in with higher and further education establishments in Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen.

In 2005, the regionalisation of girls and women’s leagues gave more focus at local level and there are stronger links between clubs, Scottish Women’s Football and the SFA. There’s been additional funding from CashBack for Communities and last year the girls’ and women’s leagues made a major structural change by switching to a March to November season.

All this has led to a dramatic improvement in footballing standards and the national side is reaping the benefit.

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