Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Women Get Their Kicks

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Women Get Their Kicks

Article excerpt

Byline: By Marie Turbill

As a child Claire Smith loved nothing more than kicking a football about.

It was a passion she discovered at the age of seven and it has never worn off.

Today she is captain of the Ladies Boro team and loves the sport as much as ever.

But in the early days she remembers football opportunities for girls were few and far between.

And as a child she found it hard to pursue her dream.

"When I was little and interested in playing football there wasn't really anywhere I could go," she says.

"My dad didn't really take it seriously but my mum did.

"I just used to play with the boys and they accepted me as one of them.

"From there it was just a waiting game until I was 18 and had my own transport so I could travel into Middlesbrough and join a women's team."

Today, aged 30, Claire has been playing for Middlesbrough Ladies for 12 years.

She is an inspiration to many girls keen to play the sport.

Fortunately in recent years women's football opportunities have rocketed.

And last season participation figures rose by an incredible 40pc.

Now the FA wants to increase those numbers even further.

Claire says it is great that so many women and girls are getting into the sport.

In her own experience she has witnessed women's teams being taken more seriously.

"You still get the odd wisecrack or comment," she says.

"But when they see you play or realise you are very serious about it they come round to the idea. Some even end up regularly coming to watch the games.

"There is the odd old school boy that says football is a man's game but you can't change that. The majority of people are supportive."

Middlesbrough Football Club are among the Boro Ladies team's supporters.

Claire says we use their name, they give us track suits and let us use the Billingham Synthonia pitch for games.

While the players are extremely serious about the sport Claire says: "We are classed as an amateur team and just play for enjoyment. …

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