Girls' football gets a bounce from Olympics

thisisoxfordshire: COMMITMENT:  Kidlington coach Caroline Whitfeld with players Abi Haynes, left, and Eleanor Whitfeld Buy this photo » COMMITMENT: Kidlington coach Caroline Whitfeld with players Abi Haynes, left, and Eleanor Whitfeld

THE BEAUTIFUL game was not Team GB’s strong suit at the Olympics.

But it was a chance for the world to watch professional women’s football, many for the first time.

In the months since, Oxford United Ladies reached the quarter final of the Women’s FA Cup, and clubs across Oxfordshire have been seeing a rise in interest from young girls.

Abi Haynes, 13, from Kidlington, was one of those watching the Olympic women’s football.

She said: “It was inspiring. When you see women playing football on TV it makes you think ‘I could be scoring those goals’.”

Abi, who goes to Gosford Hill School in the village, is captain of the Kidlington FC under-13 girls, and the team’s top goal scorer.

Since the Olympics the club has seen an increase of about 20 per cent in under-10s wanting to join.

Under-13 girls coach Caroline Whitfeld said: “You need to get them early, because there are so many other things to take girls’ interest.”

Kidlington FC offers coaching from the age of two although they only have one two-year-old currently in training.

The club says it helps its 80 girls develop skills, learn team work and most of all have fun.

Older girls also help mentor younger players.

Mrs Whitfeld added: “With boys’ football it’s all about aiming to play professionally. There isn’t the money in ladies’ professional football, although it is growing.

“What our girls get is fresh air, fun, and some really close, long-lasting friendships.”

The girls are also taught about commitment. Mrs Whitfeld said: “Unlike other sports where you can pitch up and play or not, with a football match it really matters whether you’re there or not.”

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At the beginning of the new season in September, the FA is starting a new league of development squads for under-10s girls.

Teams of five-a-side will be allowed, which will make it much easier for young players to start playing matches.

Oxford Mail Girls Football League chairman Chris Webb said: “We are hoping that once we start the development leagues, we will get more interest.

“For example, girls playing on a boys’ team at school will be able to play alongside other girls.

“The FA has said, after a lot of research, that this is the best way forward.”

lTo find out more about the Oxford Mail Girl’s Football League, visit the website full-time.thefa.com

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