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Millions might be watching England in the World Cup, but women's football has been attracting crowds for years

PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 June 2018

Egle Trezzi, Orient WFC first team midfielder, in action against Enfield Town Ladies. Picture: Simon O'Connor Photography

Egle Trezzi, Orient WFC first team midfielder, in action against Enfield Town Ladies. Picture: Simon O'Connor Photography

Simon O'Connor Photography

While everyone is getting behind England in the World Cup, what about the talented women in the sport? Hayley Anderson finds out more.

Aspring football players at Goals Dagenham. Picture: Denis LawrenceAspring football players at Goals Dagenham. Picture: Denis Lawrence

The likes of Harry Kane, Neymar and Ronaldo are already proving they are worth every penny of their multi-million pound salaries, just two weeks into the World Cup, which is bound to inspire young people to take up the game themselves.

But women have been thriving in the sport long before 2018, the 2012 Olympics when members of the England team represented the UK and decades prior to the release of the 2002 smash hit film Bend it like Beckham starring Keira Knightly.

It all started in the 1890s when there were a number of women’s clubs, with one in north London which attracted around 10,000 people to a game at Crouch End.

Over time, football grew even more popular and in the 1920s one match attracted 50,000 spectators and 150 women’s teams were set up in England.

Dagenham and Redbridge FC players with children at Goals Dagenham. Picture: Denis LawrenceDagenham and Redbridge FC players with children at Goals Dagenham. Picture: Denis Lawrence

Despite the game being at its height during this time, The FA (Football Association) banned women’s football from its grounds as it viewed the sport as “quite unsuitable for females”.

This perspective only changed towards the end of the 1960s, which is seen by some as a key reason why women’s football still lags behind the men’s game today.

However, Denis Lawrence of the Dagenham and Rainham FC Community Trust believes the sport is thriving for both sexes.

“There are a lot of really good girl players”, he said.

“I think statistically, when they get to 13, 14, most teenage girls lose interest in activities but I have seen football develop and the number of players, both women and men, increase.

“When girls do start to play, even if it’s not part of a league and just for fun, they do get into it and realise they could actually be quite good as well so it’s about encouraging them in the first place.

“We have some mums who like to come out and play a few games as well just to have a break from their husbands!”

The community trust is a charitable organisation which facilitates and operates a wide variety of activities for members of the local community.

It aims to get “bums off seats” by encouraging people to become active in a number of ways which are fun and promote self-independence, friendship, teamwork, self-esteem and personal development.

The trust ran three female teams last season in the Essex County Girls’ and Women’s Leagues, which were the under-12 and under-14 levels as well as adult sides.

And since the community trust has been given a massive funding boost from the National League Trust, this means that it will now run six female teams next season, which will be under-10s, under-11s, under-12s, under-13s, under-15s and adults.

Denis said: “The old fashion opinion that “football is for boys” is gone, I don’t think there are many people who still think that.

“The problem with getting more members is because of the socio-economic factor which affects these areas. Not everyone can afford for their child to come and play football with a team every week so we want to get the parents’ support break down any barriers which could stop someone from taking part.

“We do want to promote exercising and living a healthier lifestyle but we also want anyone who feels like they might want to play, to just come along and have some fun.

“You don’t know if you’ll love it until you play a few games.”

To fill the new teams, the Dagenham and Redbridge FC Community Trust is running trials at Goals Dagenham, Ripple Road, Dagenham, every night this week from 5-7pm.

For more information about the trust, visit daggers.co.uk

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