Arsenal Ladies starlet, Leah Williamson, visited St Albans Girls’ School along with teammate Jordan Nobbs in a quest to encourage more girls to take up football.
The Arsenal players appeared at the inter-school tournament hoping to inspire the next generation of professional female football stars, following the scouting of Anouk Denton and Teyah Goldie who both come from St Albans Girls’ School.
19-year-old Williamson, who’s played for Arsenal her entire career so far, highlighted the importance of teaching young girls to follow their dreams and assured them that football isn’t just for boys.
“I really enjoyed getting involved with Girls’ Football Week events,” she told the Herts Advertiser.
“It’s good to connect with the young girls involved in our sport and hopefully inspire a few more to take it up!
“I have definitely noticed an increase in the number of girls taking up football. St Albans Girls’ School had so many girls at the after school club. When I was playing for my school team we could barely scrape 11 for the pitch. The push to get girls involved really is paying off.”
She added, “There are pathways to help those interested but don’t know where to start. And also they need to encourage their kids to be brave and step out of that comfort zone because once they try football I think they would surprise themselves with how much they enjoy it.
“They also need to take away any stereotypes that may be in their children’s minds. Football is not just for boys!”
Women’s football is becoming increasingly respected with matches now getting TV coverage and considerable turnouts.
It’s great to see, although there’s still a long way to go, especially when it comes to funding.
Just weeks ago, West Ham were accused of breaking the FA rules when chairman of the ladies’ team, Stephen Hunt, made it public that they had to pay for their own travel to a game.
Anyone fancy paying the £800 for our travel to our next match this weekend? West Ham won't. We play in the @FA_WPL without funding.
— Stephen Hunt (@ChairmanHuntJnr) October 3, 2016
Furthermore, Hunt told BBC Sport that they weren’t allowed to find their own sponsors and had to buy their own kit.
“West Ham need to be fined until they start to act like a 21st century club,” he said.
The Hammers then responded that Hunt “threatened the club” and “refused to align” with their principles.
Regardless of the outcome, hopefully West Ham Ladies get the respect and financial backing they deserve as soon as possible.