It’s Olympics time and Team GB women’s football team are kicking them off!
Below is an archive interview I did with Karen Bardsley, Team GB goalkeeper.
The last ten years have left English football fans with a sour taste in their mouth. A series of managers who insist on sticking with the ‘golden generation’ despite them showing no signs of being able play together have drained many supporters of their lust for the three lions.
This summer a group of English women stepped out onto the pitch in Wolfsburg to kick off a World Cup campaign where despite losing in the quarter finals to France, would see them return home in a shower of praise.
Goalkeepers are to a team what drummers are to a band, unpredictable and enigmatic but without them, the whole thing can fall apart. This World Cup campaign showed that England may have found just the pair of hands they were looking for. They are based in New Jersey and belong to Karen Bardsley.
As well as playing for Sky Blues FC in the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL), she is a graphic designer and at the age of 26, she has many years left on the world stage.
I spoke to Karen about the World Cup, the women’s game in England and about her hopes for the future.
After a good pre-world cup build up with victories over USA and Sweden, what do you feel could have led to the perceived slow start to the tournament?
KB: I don’t think I can say it was one thing in particular that may have contributed to the slow start. It could have been nerves, pressure, or even an information overload, there are a plethora of possibilities.
How does it feel walking out on the pitch before a world cup match representing your country?
KB: It’s an absolutely brilliant feeling. The build up is exciting: the warm up gets you physically and mentally psyched and just as we wait in the tunnel before the team walks out on to the pitch there is almost a sense of peace, followed by the deafening roar of 30,000 supporters. Exhilarating.
There’s nothing that can really compare, it’s a very unique experience.
There seemed to be an incredible atmosphere within the team camp at the world cup, can this be attributed to any particular major factors?
KB: It’s a World Cup! How could you not be excited? The environment did feel quite good, I think that everyone had fun and certainly enjoyed themselves. It was a lot of fun making the video diaries and documenting our experiences, it was a fun way to express ourselves. We had a bit more spare time than usual as well so we had the opportunity to be with our families, friends and teammates which promoted a relaxed environment.
The whole team fought like lions against France, what goes through your mind when you’re that exhausted, have that many players injured but you know you have to go on?
KB: Everyone has so many thoughts and personal battles as they are playing. I can only speak for myself but when I am tired I know that I have to keep play simple and just go for it, there is no point in holding anything back. You focus on the task at hand and get the job done.
You have beaten both world cup finalists in the build up and subsequently the group stages of the world cup, does that knowledge make watching from home more frustrating?
KB: It is a bit frustrating but I prefer to look at it auspiciously. We have made colossal progress, we have beaten quality opponents and now we know we can compete and defeat the world’s elite.
What do you think the Women’s Super League has to do to begin to match the Women’s Professional Soccer League?
KB: It needs to be taken seriously. It needs quality resources: league and team sponsors, facilities, pitches, fan and financial support, grass root participation, marketing, etc. There is no success without investment. The players need to be invested in training, being the best and getting involved with the community and the employees need to be invested in the product and willing to commit time to do whatever it takes to be successful. I would absolutely consider coming to play in England at some point.
In America, women’s teams tend to be stand alone 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?
KB: I’m not a business guru but to me it seems more logical to have some sort of affiliation. Take for example the Women’s National Basketball Association, it is affiliated with the NBA and has made substantial strides since its inception 15 years ago. It may not currently be the most viable product but at least it is still around and the league has given itself an opportunity to lay a foundation unlike the Women’s United Soccer Association which was around briefly for three years. Hopefully the Women’s Professional Soccer in America and Women’s Premier League in England have better luck!
You’re an artist and an athlete…will you continue to combine the two once your playing days come to an end or will you specialise in either coaching/management or graphic design?
KB: I like to think that I will always continue to design whether it is a hobby or a profession but the more and more I think about coaching the more I miss it. I think I would really enjoy getting back into collegiate coaching again when I’ve had enough of playing.
What advice would you have for young people trying to get into the game?
KB: Play, play, play! Watch, watch, watch! Go out and have fun. If you like the game, then find a team and compete. If you want to get more serious then you can join an academy or centre of excellence and begin to develop your tactical and technical understanding.
Tell me one thing about Karen Bardsley that I wouldn’t find on google?
KB: I love hugs.