VICKY CARSON has been playing bandy for the last few years. And spending the same period of time explaining to everyone what it is.

Hugely popular throughout Scandinavia, bandy is a cross between ice hockey, field hockey and football, played on ice but with a curled stick, a round ball and on a rink – where possible – the length of a football pitch. Unlike ice hockey, it is also a non-contact sport placing the emphasis on speed and skill and reducing the importance of physicality.

Despite originating in this country in the 19th century, it was largely forgotten about until the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – William and Kate – were introduced to the sport during a visit to Sweden in 2018 and asked whether there was also a British team. There wasn’t.

On the back of that chance conversation, a men’s team was formed and went to the 2019 world championships and now a women’s side has been similarly established and will head to the 2022 world championships to be held in Stockholm in March next year.

Carson, a fourth-year biology student at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh originally from Dumfries and Galloway, is among those set to take part. Like many in the squad, the 22-year-old has a background in ice hockey and represents the GB universities team but has also played ball hockey, an off-ice variant of ice hockey.

She admits to being curious when first approached about bandy but is now eagerly anticipating the rare opportunity, less than three years later, to represent her country during its maiden world championship appearance.

“One of the girls on the ice hockey team messaged me a few years ago to say they were starting up a GB bandy team and would pass on my name to the coach if I were interested,” she recalled.

“And I was up for that right away. I thought initially it would be quite similar to ice hockey but it’s actually really different.

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“We had a training camp in Sweden recently and that was the first time we had played on the full-length ice which is much bigger than a normal ice rink.

“The sticks in bandy are also a lot smaller than ice hockey sticks. So after my first training session I had a really sore back as I wasn’t used to being so close to the ground!

“Shooting technique is different too as you don’t generate the same power, and the kit is less padded as it’s a non-contact sport. I’m quite a physical ice hockey player so it’s a big adjustment from skating into someone to get the puck and skilfully trying to nick a bandy ball away from them. It takes a bit of time to get used to but I’ve got the hang of it now!”

Carson reckons she's just one of four female players in the whole of Scotland but it is a different story in Scandinavia where those involved are hugely recognised and popular figures.

“It was kind of crazy as one of our coaches used to play for the Sweden men’s team,” explains Carson. “We were at a small-town rink watching a game over there and all these people kept coming over and saying, “oh my gosh, you’re Daniel Andersson, best bandy player ever!”.

“So it was a bit of a shock to discover your coach is a celebrity. It was great to see how popular the sport is over there and hopefully with time it will start to take off in Britain too.

“I’ve played in a world championship in ball hockey before but to do it now as part of the first-ever GB women’s team in bandy feels really special.

“I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet. Every time I think about it I have a wee smile.”

Cost is always a big factor in trying to keep a niche sport like bandy operating. The team is self-funded with limited financial support, with even the cost of hiring an ice rink for a night’s practise initially coming out of someone’s pocket.

“We train in Sheffield every other week and at the start my other half, Tom, was basically paying for the ice time out of his own pocket,” revealed Clare Ledbury who helped get the GB team up and running and now looks after the bulk of its administrative and financial matters, as well as playing.

“That wasn’t sustainable in the longer term so we’re just looking for any help we can get to ensure we’re best prepared as we can be heading to the world championships.

“It’s an historic event with this being the first GB women’s side to take part and so the more training we can fit in before then the better.”

Anyone willing to help support the team with their costs can do so at: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/teamgbbandy