It’s Olympics time and Team GB women’s football team are kicking them off!
Below is an archive interview I did with Alex Scott, Team GB and now Arsenal ladies defender.
Alex Scott, formerly of Birmingham City and Arsenal ladies, was one of the stars of England’s recent world cup campaign. Her inclusion in the All-Star squad from the tournament in Germany puts her up there with the best players in the world. At the tender age of 26, Alex has already competed in two European Championships and two World Cups, and she now plies her trade for the Boston Breakers in America.
Despite becoming a household name, she isn’t resting on her laurels. Alex is working to ensure that the next generation of women’s footballers have every opportunity that she had. She has recently helped to establish the Alex Scott Football Academy at Kingston College, London, where girls between the ages of 16-19 can go and develop their craft and maintain their love for the game.
As a nation we were gripped by England’s lionesses fighting their hearts out on foreign soil. The biggest prize in Women’s international football was at stake and England went into the tournament on a high after wins against Sweden and the USA. A heartbreaking penalty shoot-out defeat deprived England of a semi-final berth but, more than that, the dedication of the team and the on-field commitment of the women made many English football supporters feel pride in their national team for the first time in many years.
I spoke to Alex to discuss the World Cup, the future of the Women’s game and how she feels the Women’s game can go forward.
Do you feel that England’s mix of mature and young squad members benefited our progress in the tournament?
It’s always good to mix experienced players with new and exciting, young squad members. I am a true believer that it does not matter about age. If you are good enough, then why should age be a factor? All the young members of the team have proven over time that they are more than good enough.
When they played during the World Cup all of them showed what they are about and that is exciting that we have that sort of young talent coming through the system. It also pushes the more experienced players.
What do you think England’s heroics at the Women’s World Cup will do in the long run for the game in England?
You always hope that playing in a tournament like this, where there is a lot more media interest and the games are such a high level and very entertaining that you turn people’s heads back home that might have never been interested in the women’s game before.
You get stereotypical men who always go to watch men’s games and, despite never having been to a women’s game, always has bad things to say about it. You hope that they catch a game on TV and realise what a high standard of play there is and that they really enjoyed it. You then hope that guy then tells his other mates who have never seen a game before and so on. Word of mouth spreads and will hopefully increase the number of fans going to watch the women’s game.
As female athletes you also hope that a tournament like this will raise the profile of the sport, so that parents will be supportive if their daughter comes home from school and says mum, I want to be a footballer and I want to play for England. You hope that girls see us as role models and want to play and be like us when they are older.
How did the team create such a cohesive and happy camp when so many national teams fracture during big tournaments?
This is such an important part, you have to make sure that team dynamics are right, and you have a team that is willing to risk it all for their teammates, not just for themselves. For us it was all about spending time together off the field as well as on it, it was about becoming friend’s not just teammates.
We spent time doing fun quizzes where all had to participate and, at times, you would make yourself look silly but there was no place to hide. We would spend time playing cards or board games, or we would just simply go on walks or watch movies. You are away for such a long time so it is important that you enjoy the company of your teammates and have fun away from the field so you can switch off from football sometimes.
You were one of the WPS All-Stars in 2009 and, following the World Cup, you were a seemingly unanimous inclusion in the World Cup All-Stars team, as an individual. What are you pushing for now?
It was a real honour for me to be named in the FIFA all star team and a very proud moment. When I first broke in to the senior side I remember watching Kerstin Stegemann play for the German national team. She was an amazing right back and I knew she was the best right back in the women’s game. I went away from that game thinking ‘wow’, I want to be the best right back and I know the standard I have to be to get there. That night I thought to myself what does she do that I can learn from and add to my game and what the weaknesses so that I can also improve. From that moment I have worked and worked to be recognised as the best right back in the women’s game.
Alex’s England boss, Hope Powell
I have always remembered something that Hope Powell told me, she said that
“the easiest part is getting the shirt, but the hardest thing is to keep it. There is
always someone there waiting to take that shirt off you”.
That same statement also applies here, now I have this recognition as a player I want to keep it. Now I have to push to be even better. I still need to work on parts of my game and I need to work hard to hopefully be selected to play in the Olympics next year and, if selected, make sure I am ready to be the best I can be to help my team.
What benefits has the move across the Atlantic given you as a player?
Being able to be to be on a ball every day and my total focus being on improving as a footballer and concentrating on my game has been a major plus for me. I have learnt so much from the American culture as well. USA have been ranked number one in the women’s game for a number of years and it has been a real eye opener to come into that culture and to adopt there mentality. They really do have a never say die attitude and this amazing team spirit. I think we all witnessed this in the quarter final match against Brazil in the World Cup.
It has been a real benefit for me learning this side of the game and i think the same can be said of the Americans.
At the Breakers you play alongside and against some of the best players in the world. What do you feel the club can achieve in the next few years?
This club has a proud tradition. I think out of all the teams in the league the Boston Breakers have been around the longest and has a great fan support.
I think for the club and for the fans it would be great to see us win something. Every year we are improving, but like you said with some of the best players playing on this team, it is time to win!
Who would you rank as the best female player in the world at the moment and why?
I think anyone who watched the Women’s World Cup would all agree that Homare Sawa deserved to be handed the MVP award. To score five goals from midfield in a World Cup to lead your team the way she did, and to play with style and grace the way she has done for so many years. But to produce it how she did it the tournament, she certainly has to be ranked as the best player in the world right now.
What do you think the English Women’s Super League (WSL) has to do to begin to match the Women’s Professional Soccer League?
The WSL are doing a great job and are heading in the right direction and it’s all about being able to sustain the product they are trying to create. I do not think at this moment in time you can compare the two leagues – because one is professional and the other is not. The WSL have changed the league format to try and make the games more competitive, raise the standard of the game and to make it more viable to fans, by not competing with the men’s game in England. These are all positive’s and have already seen rewards from this.
In America, women’s teams tend to be standalone organisations, whilst in England, many are affiliated with established men’s teams. Does being a standalone organisation give you an advantage when trying to attract supporters?
This is a hard question. I think there are advantages and disadvantages to this. In England if you tell people that you play for Arsenal ladies there is that automatic recognition that you are attached to a big club because of the men’s team. Straight away you have that recognition there and you hope that people who love Arsenal will love the women’s side too because they love all things Arsenal, so you have already got some fans on board.
But then you could say that because the clubs in America do stand alone, the fans that they do have are 100% diehard fans because they are coming to watch the Boston Breakers, if there is an MLS game on the same day that does not matter because they our fans. I remember when playing for Arsenal, if the men’s side was playing it would affect our fan support for that game.
How did you get involved with the Alex Scott Football Academy at Kingston College?
A friend of mine approached me with the idea. She was looking to do something a little different to the academies that are out there at the moment. She wanted to do something a little bit more personal and hands on.
I thought the idea was great. I had come through an academy system and loved my two years getting to play football every day as well as completing my studies, so if I can inspire and help young girls out there and give them a little bit of the opportunities that I got. I want to help.
What advice would you have for young people trying to get into the game?
I know it’s an old cliché, but I would say it’s always about giving 100% and being committed to what you are doing. What is the point in turning up to a practice if you are only going to give 50% throughout? You may as well stay at home and not waste your time. They are trying to improve and want to make it and you will never get to where you want by giving 50%.
As well as that, I would say remember to always enjoy what you are doing and smile. Love what you do.
Tell me one thing about Alex Scott that I wouldn’t find on Google?
I’m learning to play the guitar, but I am still not very good at it. Also I hate feet, please do not come anywhere near me with your feet thank you!
This interview was conducted with the kind assistance of Boston Breakers where Alex plays alongside fellow England star Kelly Smith.
More information on the Boston Breakers can be found at http://www.womensprosoccer.com/boston