Meridian Girls U14’s Football Club are hoping that the recent visit of Maryland Olympic Development  U14’s from across the pond will bolster the opportunities of the young  female footballers.

Meridian hosted the American team at the beginning of April, playing the touring side at Holcombe Hockey Club in an 11 a side match which finished 1-1.

They were selected from four local teams in North Kent by the Football Association to face the Maryland side, who also came up against the likes of Reading, Tottenham and Crystal Palace youngsters during their visit.

The Meridian girls, who have made the Kent Cup Final are also vying for second place in their league.

Meridian Girls  U14’s Coach Marc Roberts believes that the standard of girls’ football is increasing and the recent success of the England’s Women Team will help funding and opportunities for the girls. 

“I think the gap is closing in the way the girls play the game but not in terms of attitude, it’s changing but nowhere near the same level as the boys, even though the England Women’s team do better than the men’s.

“We get the occasional grant from football foundation but our football club is mostly funded by parents, volunteers and our sponsors, Gallaghers.”

“There’s not an infinite pot of money but it’s certainly harder to book pitches for the girls to play on because all the good pitches are booked up by the boys’ teams.

Roberts hopes that having played an American side there will be more chances for the girls he coaches to make the transatlantic trip, where there are more opportunities for women to play football.

Julie Little, whose daughters  Remmy and Olympia play for Meridian, also believes that the Olympic legacy will have an impact on girls wanting to take part in football, and their opportunities to do so.

Along with Mrs Little’s daughters , Meridian players  Becky Guider and Eleanor Harrington expressed a desire to continue playing football, having done so for their schools and club. And Harrington said they know that their upcoming final could attract scouts looking for talented youngsters.

But for the Americans, despite admitting there is more equality between the sexes in sport, the team were surprised by the facilities used by the English teams they had played whilst touring.

Jill Twetten, whose daughter Mary plays for Maryland said that experience had been just as much about learning about the English Culture as playing football.

She said: “When they played Tottenham, they were getting each other to say things to compare accents.”

Mrs Twetten also said that she thinks the range of sports American children do has an effect on the popularity of girls’ football.

Maryland Olympic Development Coach Sandy Lagana said she believes the system is clearer for girls wanting to pursue a career as a footballer in America and hopes that the future stars of the national team could be playing or her team now.

She said: “The system is changing in the US, it’s starting to change with the way our clubs are organised but the Olympic programme is a feeder for that.”

Women’s football in America has had a turbulent year with the Women’s Professional Soccer League folding in May 2012. It was the first attempt at a fully professional league.

However, National Women’s Soccer League was launched last month with eight teams, including four former members of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) competing.

And with St George’s Park National Training Centre opening in Staffordshire here in the UK at the end of last year , as well as the England Women’s team competing in the upcoming Euro 2013 tournament, it seems there is no better time for girls to get on the football pitch and aim for the top.

 

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