England Women's captain Casey Stoney calls for more girls to get involved in football
THERE really is "no excuse" for the area's football-mad girls not to lace up their boots and get involved in the game.
That's the message from England Women's captain Casey Stoney who has called on youngsters to take advantage of the wealth of opportunities that are currently on offer to them.
The 30-year-old was in Lincolnshire this week to coach students at Birkbeck College as part of her work as a mentor for Sky's Living for Sport initiative.
And speaking at the North Somercotes school, she told the Telegraph that there has never been a better time for young girls to get involved with the Women's game.
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"It is the strongest it's ever been at the moment – especially off the back of the Olympics last year," said Stoney, who skippered Team GB at London 2012.
"The Games gave Women's football a platform that it has never had before and things are just getting better.
"Because of that, and the growing awareness of the England Women's team, there are so many more opportunities for girls to get into football at the moment," she added.
"My message to girls in the area is to get out and play.
"I started playing out in the street with the boys. We put jackets down for goals and I absolutely loved it.
"Find out who your local teams are and go down there, or just play down the park; the main thing is to get playing and enjoying your football.
"You can play with the boys up until the age of 14 now which is fantastic.
"If you're a girl who loves football – there really is no excuse not to get involved at the moment."
Stoney was visiting Birkbeck fresh from receiving the Football Association's Team of the Year award alongside her England team-mates at the weekend.
It was the latest in a year of highlights for the Basildon-born defender, who came agonisingly close to medalling at London 2012 with Team GB.
Hope Powell's side won all three group games, including a 1-0 win over Brazil at Wembley, before eventually losing out to Canada in the quarter-finals.
And while she admits to being hugely disappointed in the aftermath of that defeat, she now looks back on the experience with fondness.
She continued: "The Olympics were absolutely incredible.
"It was hard in the aftermath of it to look back on it with any kind of pride because I was so disappointed that we got knocked out by Canada.
"I'm a competitor and I believed that we could medal so it was bitterly disappointing but now I look back on it with
some really fond memories of the experience.
"We walked out in front of 70,000 people at Wembley and not many can say they've done that.
"Not just that, we also went on to beat Brazil on that stage so there were a lot of great memories for us.
"There were so many 'Wow' moments at London 2012 and being part of that was just incredible.
"I'd like to think that we really put Women's football out there and I'm really proud of that fact."
On her work as a Living for Sport mentor, she added: "It's fantastic that, through being England captain and having the experiences that I've had, I get to work with young people on projects like this.
"The school have picked 18 talented and gifted students for me to work with as their mentor.
"They are going to replicate what I do with them to raise the level of PE by encouraging pupils to engage more in sport, which is fantastic."