Women's World Cup has direct impact on grassroots game

croppedimage613299 Lionesses PA 42289877

The international break is in full swing - England’s women drew 3-3 with Belgium last week, and are now preparing in Norway for tonight’s friendly in Bergen. We caught up with Lionesses fan Louise Smith to find out more about what it’s like following the national team, her experiences of the World Cup and how the Lionesses are inspiring a new generation to get involved in the game.

“We've loved supporting the Lionesses on their journey, especially this last year with the She Believes Cup and the World Cup in France,” Louise told us. “We took our daughter to her first football match 2 years ago when she was 9. After trying football with the local girls’ team and enjoying it so much, she wanted to get a pair of boots right away.

“Soon after she joined, the team needed a parent volunteer and my partner put his hand up, not quite knowing what he was letting himself in for! He now manages the under 12's girls team and I'm currently completing the FA Level 1 coaching course.

“Our interest and love of football, particularly women's football, has continued to grow this last few years, primarily through playing, coaching, attending WSL matches, and following the Lionesses this summer to the World Cup.”

As a fan who travels to watch the Lionesses, Louise was hoping to see Phil Neville’s women in action in Lyon at this summer’s final. Unfortunately we know how that played out, but that didn’t stop the tournament being a great experience.

“The atmosphere at the final was electric. To see football played on such a large scale in front of huge crowds was mind blowing, and to hear the noise of the fans and we were very lucky be part of such a special event broadcast all around the world - just disappointed we weren’t watching the Lionesses!

“It was fantastic to watch the England players on their journey in France, and to see some really exciting, quality football. I especially enjoyed seeing the impact the players have as positive role models, not only for children like my daughter but for grown-ups like me too!

“We see every day the strength and determination the players have, it’s clear they are doing something they really love. One of the best things for me is seeing how they never give up and always strive to improve, despite challenges they may face on and off the pitch, they set a great example to all of us.

As well as following the game as a fan of Manchester City, Louise gets involved with running her local Wildcats centre, a place which offers girls of from five to 11 the chance to get involved and try out football for the first time – find out more, including where your local centre is here.

“Over the summer it has been really refreshing to meet so many new families bringing their children down to a Wildcats session. The girls are full of enthusiasm and have great fun trying out football for the first time. The Lionesses and the Women’s World Cup have most definitely had a direct impact, and hopefully this momentum will continue.”

And with this increased participation comes real changes in the growth of the game, according to Louise.

“I’m excited to see changes already taking place, our local village primary school is planning to have a girl’s football team for the first time ever this year and want to compete against other local schools, which is fantastic.

“Getting girls involved from a young age can only benefit the women's game. The future is bright.”

To find out more about our coverage of women’s football, follow @FreeLionesses on Twitter. You can also read our supporters’ guides to Belgium and Norway here.

Thanks to PA Images for the image used in this blog.