GIRLS FOOTBALL onsıde| ISSUE 39 25 The FA’s move to allow girls teams to play in Charter Standard boys leagues was undoubtedly a bold statement for the development of the women and girls’ game. Equally, there was huge excitement about having a Premier League youth team (regardless if they were girls) competing in a grassroots league. I want to leave the closing remarks on this landmark, thrilling season to the most important people in this story: the girls. I think more notice will be taken of the women’s and girls’ game and the progression made so far, which I hope will continue in the future and make more girls want to play.” Olivia This has set a new challenge for girls’ football and hopefully it will continue. It helped raise my game with speed and physical demands. I have had a wonderful time and a really good experience which I enjoyed and now when we play boys I don’t think it’s a boys’ team, I just think we are playing football against another team boys or girls, because football is for everyone.” Ryeesa I feel honoured and privileged that I’ve been given this amazing opportunity. It gives us the chance to show everyone that we girls are a force to be reckoned with and how much we are developing.” Maddy CLOSING THOUGHTS ON A FASCINATING SEASON number of months, the girls were firmly on an upward trajectory and relished every opportunity to play against boys. Again, the girls’ thoughts and memories better explain the effect that this experience of finally competing with boys had on them. Reflecting on her physical development, Olivia says, “Playing boys has improved me a lot as a player by making me have to be more physical, and when I am on the ball making quicker decisions and playing the ball faster.” A bullish Ryeesa adds, “It gave us confidence and self- belief that we can go out and beat any team.” Maddy also echoes the importance of learning and development. “It felt like the team had come a long way from the beginning of the season and how much the team had improved. It was satisfying knowing that we are learning and developing as a team but also individually as well,” she said. Impressive performances and victories, including those at Belstone, Harvesters and Edmonton Rangers to name a few, showed that girls were clearly competing. Most importantly, it was the consistency in quality of our team’s game play throughout the second half of the season that was most pleasing to see. Within the blink of an eye, we arrived at our final league game of the season. It was against the Maccabi Lions – one of the first teams of boys that we had come up against in pre-season and who had dominated so impressively, inflicting that heavy defeat. This would be the ultimate test on how far the girls had come on their journey. This time the girls were a very different prospect. They were fiercely competitive, had a physical presence all over the pitch, and mentally prepared to win the ball. Once we had it, the girls showed great calmness and composure to play exciting attacking football. After an extremely competitive game, the girls came away with a thoroughly deserved victory. It was humbling to see how far this group of girls had come from that pre-season game against the Lions. Particularly as it was clear that the Lions were still the incredible force on the pitch that we remembered from so many months before when we were so far off their pace and so far off their level.