England Football teams
Poppy Cottrill doesn’t see herself as part of a trend; she simply loves playing football. “I started when I was about eight. I used to go and watch my brother play and then play with him and his friends. Then I joined the mixed team at primary school. But it’s not so good playing with boys; they get too strong, ” said the 15-year-old.
Now a star forward with the Swindon Spitfires under-16s, Poppy has ambitions to make her future in the game, maybe with a major league team here, perhaps heading for America, as several young British women players have done, where generous sponsorship and TV coverage have created a thriving football scene.The Swindon Spitfires under-16s team, with coaching staff: Poppy Cottrill sits front row, third from left. Photograph: Nancy Sayles
Ever since women’s football attracted mainstream interest during the 2012 London Olympics, the game in the UK has gone from strength to strength. A crowd of 45, 000 paid to see England play Germany at Wembley last November and now growing TV audiences are following the World Cup in Canada, where England’s women’s team, the “lionesses”, have reached the last 16 and will take on Norway on Monday 22 June.
The players in the senior squad are being held up as new positive role models for teenage girls, not only for their sporting prowess, but also for some of their individual stories – like that of Karen Carney, who came back from a lengthy injury last week to score a winning goal, publicly thanking the squad’s medical team for their help. Carney has also battled depression and admitted to self-harm.
Then there is 21-year-old striker Fran Kirby, who plays for Reading and England, and has also talked openly about her struggle with depression after she lost her mother at the age of 14 and dropped out of football for a time. “It makes everything so much more worth it, coming back and playing, ” she said.England’s Fran Kirby celebrates scoring a goal against Mexico at the Women’s World Cup in Canada. Photograph: Rex Shutterstock/Xinhua
It’s that kind of motivational story that is igniting interest in the game. For Poppy Cottrill, seeing the England women’s team do so well in Canada is hugely encouraging, although she doesn’t have a favourite player – “I prefer playing to watching.”Poppy Cottrill showed an early interest in playing football, and started out in a boys’ team. Photograph: Nancy Sayles
Her brother is a little jealous of her talent but “encouraging”, she says. In fact 21-year-old Jake Cottrill’s university dissertation is on whether or not media coverage of women’s football increased after the 2012 Olympics. He concluded that it had.
Polly’s mother, Nancy Sayles, was a little bewildered but happy with her daughter’s choices. “I’m not great on football, but her dad and brother have always encouraged her and it’s good to think that training and career chances are opening up to her and to the girls’ game.”