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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

Orient WFC first team before a match against MK Dons at the Matchroom Stadium in the WPL. Picture: Orient WFC

Orient WFC first team before a match against MK Dons at the Matchroom Stadium in the WPL. Picture: Orient WFC

Orient WFC

England flags are proudly flying and chants of God Save the Queen can be heard across the country, as the World Cup continues to grip millions of viewers.

Lisa Holmback, Orient WFC first team midfielder, jumping for a header against Norwich City. Picture: Orient WFCLisa Holmback, Orient WFC first team midfielder, jumping for a header against Norwich City. Picture: Orient WFC

But while everyone is more than happy to get behind the team, what about the talented women leading the way in the sport? Hayley Anderson finds out more about women’s football and its place in 2018.

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.

Orient WFC's first and development teams at the Leyton Orient Star Player Awards 2018. Sophie Le Marchand was named Star Woman for the 2017/2018 season. Picture: Simon O'Connor PhotographyOrient WFC's first and development teams at the Leyton Orient Star Player Awards 2018. Sophie Le Marchand was named Star Woman for the 2017/2018 season. Picture: Simon O'Connor Photography

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.

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.

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

However, Danielle Griffiths, captain for the Leyton Orient WFC believes the sport is thriving for both sexes.

“The level of interest is increasing each year which is fantastic to see”, she said.

“At this year’s first trial game we had over 20 new players come down to try out and the standard was incredibly high and we still have one more trial game remaining!

“I think it is important that girls are aware that the same opportunities are available to them as are available to boys.

“Young girls can aspire to be professional footballers, or referees or coaches, which was not always the case when I was growing up.

“Every child should be afforded the same opportunities and we are fortunate that the game has grown in such a way in the last few years, thanks to fantastic campaigns from the England Lionesses and teams in the Women’s Super League, that to make that a reality.”

The Leyton Orient WFC was established in 2015 when Leyton Orient and the KIKK United agreed to rebrand the KIKK.

Leyton Orient previously had a women’s team and a successful girls’ Centre of Excellence until these were disbanded around the start of the decade.

In 2016-17, the team started the season with a remarkable sequence of 10 wins from their first 10 games, all without conceding a goal.

Their success led to Orient being crowned the London and South East Women’s Regional Football League champions and secured a promotion to the FA’s Women’s Premier League.

Danielle said: “I have always loved football and started playing in a local boys team when I was 10-years-old as there were no women’s teams at that time!

“A local girls team was set up when I was 11 and from the ages of 12 - 16 I played for Colchester United Centre of Excellence. “Thereafter, I played for Colchester United Ladies First Team before heading off and playing for university at 18.

“This will be my sixth season with the club after I joined in late 2013.

“I would encourage anyone who enjoys football or who thinks they may want to try out to be confident and go for it! As well as being a great way to keep fit and healthy, it is a real team sport and you meet loads of like minded individuals who become close friends.

“There are teams for individuals at all levels from beginners to professionals so every reason to find out who your local team is and give it a go.”

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