Dagenham girls team inspired by the Lionesses at Women's World Cup
PUBLISHED: 08:55 02 July 2019
As fans celebrate the success of the England Lionesses in the Women's World Cup, the Barking & Dagenham Post met some of the youngest up-and-coming players from the Dagenham and Redbridge Ladies team.
In the under-12s team, Jess, a West Ham supporter, says training with the team has helped her pick up new skills, while Justina from the under-13s group says she also tries to absorb new tactics from YouTube.
"You have to be mysterious on the pitch," she says.
"I love football," said Justina. "I loved to watch it, play it at school. My mum and dad are football fanatics."
"I think female football should be more popular. When we train, it gives girls confidence. Boys see us and their mouths just open. It's a sport of the mind - your feet are just the tools."
Dagenham & Redbridge Ladies FC currently has three girls' youth teams and a ladies' team, and the girls are keen to see it grow in popularity as much as possible.
Gracie Robinson, who plays professionally as well as assisting with the girls' coaching, said that she grew up playing football at school, and watches both the Women's World Cup and domestic Super League avidly.
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"I think there needed to be an attitude change towards women's football," she said.
"It needs to be looked at from a tactical perspective, not just as a woman in a football kit."
She pointed out that the inaugural FIFA Women's World Cup only began in 1991, and how inspired she was by the careers of players such as Rachel Yankey.
"She came from a similar background to me - she was relatable," Robinson says.
Lindsay Harris, who runs the youth teams, says training from an early age is vital to get women and girls more involved in football.
The clubs are also an important social network for young players, helping children get active in a safe space.
For the young players, it is also a chance to hone talents, although they still feel the level of funding for boys is sexist.
Sharmila Pimentek said: "Boys get sponsorship and stadiums, while the girls' side gets neglected, even though the girls might be better than the boys."
Nonetheless, many of the girls dream of playing professionally, and with the example of the Lionesses before them, the sky's the limit.