Impetus Announces Partnership with Moriarty Foundation

To mark the announcement of Impetus’ partnership with Moriarty Foundation, Ben Gilby spoke to John Moriarty, co-founder and co-chair of Moriarty Foundation. John was the first recognised Indigenous Australian to be selected for the national football side. He has also served in various Indigenous Affairs departments at both state and national levels of government as well as being a well-known Indigenous Australian artist.

John outlined the background of Moriarty Foundation and a brief overview of the work it does. “Moriarty Foundation is an Aboriginal-established not-for-profit organisation that enables Aboriginal families and communities to unlock their children’s potential. By embracing the Aboriginal worldview, our locally-led solutions are radically shifting intergenerational disadvantage.”

“Established in 2011, Moriarty Foundation delivers two ground breaking and interrelated community initiatives in remote and regional Australia, Indi Kindi and John Moriarty Football.”

“John Moriarty Football (JMF) is Australia’s longest running and most successful Indigenous football initiative for 2-18 year-olds. JMF’s transformational skills program uses football for talent and positive change. JMF has a proven track record of improving school attendance and achieving resilient, healthier outcomes for some of Australia’s most remote Indigenous communities.

“Each week JMF reaches more than 2,000 children, with equal participation of boys and girls in eighteen communities across New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory through in-school and after-school sessions, free school holiday clinics, weekend tournaments, and in juvenile justice facilities.” 

Above: Youngsters taking part in a JMF holiday clinic. Photo supplied by: Moriarty Foundation

“JMF is community-led and guided by local Community Advisory Groups.”

With the initiative reaching so many children each week, I asked John how many staff and coaches were involved in delivering their programs in these remote communities.

“JMF has a 50/50 male/female employment policy and has thirty-five staff members of whom 63% are Indigenous. JMF staff are empowered to build their skills and qualifications through mentoring, formal coach education training and licensing, safe food handling, first aid accreditation and physical and mental health education.”

It is important to note that JMF is not just about football – it’s about improving health and lifestyle choices as John underlines. “JMF is a holistic initiative that encourages regular school attendance, healthier lifestyles, self-respect and community engagement through football and teamwork.”

“At each session, we provide access to nutritious meals and snacks. Our meals are designed by a sports dietitian and include nutrients that are often lacking from Aboriginal children’s diets in our communities.” 

Photo supplied by: Moriarty Foundation

“We provide wellness education and modelling, covering nutrition, sleep, exercise and self-calming strategies. An example of this is our breathing exercises. Every JMF session either starts or concludes with regulated breathing exercises, as well as clench and release techniques. This is intended to be a progressive practice for each individual to improve their self-emotional regulation and learn practical techniques they can use when they are stressed. By teaching emotional self-regulation strategies, we aim to build resilience and capacity in communities where stress and trauma are major contributors to disadvantage.”

“In addition, through our partnerships with local health networks, we provide vital health information our young participants need.”

The program starts with children as young as two years-old in their Indi Kindi activities. John enlarged on what these sessions are like for the young children.

“Linked to our successful Indi Kindi program, Indi Footi is a pre-school football program for two to six year olds. Delivered by our JMF coaches, Indi Footi activates young brains through movement and develops basic football and motor skills, balance and coordination in a fun, non-competitive environment. Sessions focus on fun, discovery-based football activities as well as health and wellbeing components, like breathing exercises to begin to introduce ways to self-calm.”

In terms of wider opportunities for older children, JMF also offer scholarships for indigenous children between the ages of ten to eighteen.

Above: Some of JMF’s younger participants. Photo supplied by: Moriarty Foundation.

“Our JMF Scholarships & Pathways Program begins with our Community Scholarship initiative for select participants of our JMF program in regional Indigenous communities who show exceptional talent and desire to do well at school. We support these scholars with one-on-one training, tutoring and mentoring, equipment and stationery for school, a placement with a JMF-partnered football club in the area, football equipment and travel support.

We also offer Sydney Scholarships to support JMF scholars to attend some of Australia’s top schools and undertake intensive football training in Sydney.”

“We work in partnership with schools, like SCEGGS Darlinghurst, Westfields Sport High School and St. Catherine’s School, as well as NPL football clubs (top tier State league clubs) to provide these talented children with an opportunity to pursue both a great education and advanced football development.”

The success of the program has helped to develop players who have gone on to regional and representative football. One of whom is already starting out on her W-League career, as John highlights.

“The Scholarship Program’s inaugural scholarship holder, Shadeene (Shay) Evans, went on to sign with W-League side Sydney FC, was selected as a Young Matilda and named vice-captain. Additionally, Shay was awarded the 2020 Role Model of the Year by Football Australia.”

Above: Shadeene Evans pictured with John Moriarty. Photos supplied by: JMF

The present Matildas side have a number of prominent players with indigenous heritage – Lydia Williams and Kyah Simon being two and Jada Mathyssen-Whyman has been a high profile player domestically since a very young age. Some of Australia’s biggest name Indigenous women players are actively involved in supporting JMF.

“Players like Jada Whyman and Gema Simon are frequent guests of our JMF school holiday clinics that are run each school holiday period throughout our hubs,” said John. “They get involved in running sessions, games, sharing their knowledge and having fun. Jada was also an ambassador for Indigenous Football Week in 2020 and she has recently started as a JMF Scholarship Mentor.”

With Australia having some of the world’s tightest external and internal border restrictions since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, I wondered how it had impacted on JMF’s activities.

“In 2020 when Australia went into its first lockdown our physical delivery was interrupted, however, we were still able to deliver our program virtually utilising videos and social media. Thankfully, as regional and remote areas came out of lockdown we recommenced full delivery in all our hubs observing COVID-safe guidelines.”  

The JMF has recently launched a new national body, Indigenous Football Australia to expand its Closing the Gap solution to reach thousands more Indigenous children across Australia. 

Above: Young participants in a JMF holiday clinic in Dubbo. Photo supplied by: Moriarty Foundation.

Also announced was a major partnership between UNICEF Australia and Moriarty Foundation, which has been two years in the making. The two organisations will cooperate through global exchange, knowledge sharing and community-driven advocacy. 

Among those attending the launch were Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta woman, Jada Whyman, Matilda and W-League player and recently appointed JMF Scholarship Mentor and Marra woman, Shadeene Evans, Young Matilda and inaugural JMF Scholarship holder. 

John emphasised that: “The IFA’s aim is to extend our platform even further to bring the benefits of John Moriarty Football to Indigenous children, families and communities right across Australia.”

“Our partnership with UNICEF Australia will amplify our impacts exponentially.”

“JMF meets 12 of the 17 Closing the Gap targets and the initiative is currently offered in 18 different communities in the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales, at a cost of just $1,300 per child per year.”

Above: JMF coach Tiffany Stanley with a player from their Dubbo holiday clinic. Photo supplied by: Moriarty Foundation

“The IFA’s nationwide expansion will provide over 4,000 Indigenous school-aged children each week with access to a transformational football and wellbeing program as well as increasing our footprint from 18 to 36 remote and regional Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia.”

“Additionally,” John continues, “it will increase JMF’s partnerships with public schools in remote and regional Indigenous communities from 15 to 42 by providing in-curriculum football sessions and create new jobs for approximately 70 Indigenous people in remote and regional communities.”

John added, “Since launching in 2012 in Borroloola, a small community in remote Northern Territory, with 120 children JMF has kicked many goals. Over the past 18 months alone, our growth rate for participants is over 1,000 percent.”

“We’ve taken children from the bush to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, successfully expanded in three states, held five Indigenous Football Weeks, and launched the careers of several talented young footballers”

“Building on a decade of successful operations, JMF will reach all states to create more equitable access to the great game of football for grassroots and elite players, together with improved physical and mental health, wellbeing, education and community engagement for Indigenous girls and boys, families and communities.”

John concluded: “We are always asked by people all around Australia when JMF is coming to their community as they see the positive impact it has. We are very proud to be launching IFA and this nationwide expansion of JMF that will create more Indigenous-driven pathways and opportunities for our children, families and communities.” 

The work of JMF is nothing short of inspirational and they are actively helping in changing young people’s lives as well as helping to deliver the next generation of Matildas.

As part of our partnership with Moriarty Foundation, Impetus will be highlighting its work on a regular basis which will include features on its coaches, ambassadors and programs.

We will also be highlighting fundraising opportunities and ideas for how the #ImpetusFamily can come together to support this fantastic organisation.

If you would like to donate to help Moriarty Foundation, you can do so by visiting

https://www.givenow.com.au/moriartyfoundation

Francesca Ogilvie: From Stonehaven To The SWPL1

Aberdeen‘s Francesca Ogilvie (pictured above with her SWPL Player of the Month Award by Aberdeen FC) has just been named as the SWPL2’s Player of the Month for June – a month that saw the team clinch their first ever promotion to the top flight of Scottish women’s football. Impetus hears all about her busy month.

Francesca Ogilvie of Aberdeen has been voted as the winner of the Scottish Building Society SWPL Player of the Month for June 2021.

The forward helped her side to lift the SWPL 2 title, eventually finishing ten points clear of second placed Hamilton Academical.

In a busy month which involved seven games for Aberdeen, Ogilvie scored eight goals and provided four assists. This included a hat-trick away to Queen’s Park with Aberdeen coming away 3-0 winners.

It’s the second time that an Aberdeen FC player has picked up the award in the 2020/21 season with Bayley Hutchison winning back in October 2020.

On top of winning the public vote, Ogilvie also came out with the most votes amongst the Head Coaches in the Scottish Building Society SWPL 2.

Also nominated for the June award was Clare Docherty (Partick Thistle), Josephine Giard (Hamilton Academical), and Robyn Smith (Dundee United).

Above: Francesca pictured with the SWPL2 championship trophy. Photo: @franogil13

“Just being nominated was amazing. To win it after being up against three other brilliant players – I’m delighted.”

“As a player I didn’t come through the Aberdeen pathway. I started late. I joined Stonehaven at the age of 12, a team who don’t really get looked at, so I never even thought that this would have happened to me a few years later!”

The award comes hot on the heels of Francesca’s Aberdeen side winning promotion for the second successive year as they now find themselves the top flight of Scottish Women’s Football.

“It was always one of our targets and to do it the way we did by winning the SWPL2 was amazing.

“It’s a big sigh of relief that we’ve done it, but the hard work continues next season.”

With all the ramifications of coronavirus and shifting dates of league football, Francesca summed up last season by describing it as: “Totally bizarre!

“We had two games and then there was a whole lockdown. Then we went back into it for a while for a normal one game a week schedule, then another five month lockdown and we were all thinking ‘Oh no! the season will get binned and we were sat top of the SWPL2 and we were panicking that it was going to happen.

Above: Aberdeen celebrate with the SWPL2 championship trophy. Photo: Paul Glendell/Press & Journal.

“One week we were told, that they weren’t sure if the league was coming back, and the next week we were told we had our first game back in seven days.

“They told us we were going to fit the other half of the league season into one month and, again we were thinking ‘Oh no!

“But it was good to be back and we crammed those games in to six weeks which was pretty tough, but we got the results.”

Aberdeen’s first game back after lockdown was against Queen’s Park and Francesca scored all three goals in the Dons’ win.

“It was my first hat-trick for the season, so to do it in SWPL2 was a good achievement for myself. It was 0-0 at half-time away from home and we were thinking ‘Oh my goodness, we not going home with three points here!’”

Aberdeen suffered a defeat to key challengers Hamilton Academical who, eventually also gained promotion. Francesca looked back on that massive game, saying:

“They had to come down and win that game to keep themselves up for promotion. We knew that it would be an extra tough game. In the end they wanted it more. We looked after the table after the game and we still had a wee gap between us and the rest at the top, so no-one was panicking.”

Above: Action from Aberdeen’s first game back after the re-start against Queen’s Park. Photo: Aberdeen FC

Despite the exceptionally heavy workload in June, Francesca saw positives in it.

“Getting those games over and done with in that short time period helped us and ensured the momentum kept going and hopefully we can keep that momentum going into the new season.

“Every player gave it a hundred percent whether they played 90 minutes or came on as a sub.”

Aberdeen eventually won the SWPL2 title with a couple of games to spare against their closest geographical league rivals Dundee United, who were also looking to push for promotion. “Two minutes in we got a goal and it all went from there!” Francesca explained.

In a month of highs for the Aberdeen star, Ogilvie pointed to the game against St. Johnstone for her favourite moment in June.

“We went 1-0 down thirty seconds into the second half. Then we got a free kick on the edge of the box. I took it and we scored and went 1-1. A couple of minutes later I got the ball and swung it inside to the post. It hit one post, rolled along the line, hit the other post and went in! It was a big sigh of relief!”

For Aberdeen, a club only formed in 2018 to be playing top flight Scottish football next season is hugely exciting, and Francesca cannot wait.

Above: Francesca scores from the spot in Aberdeen’s 5-2 win over Dundee United that clinched promotion to the top flight of Scottish women’s football. Photo: Press & Journal.

“I can’t wait! We relish it. No team wants to be in the league we were in. You want to be in the top league playing against the top teams. It helps you and the team to push on. Playing against the best teams and players in Scotland is what everyone wants to do.”

Aberdeen make their SWPL1 debut at home to Celtic, last season’s runners-up who will be playing UEFA Women’s Champions League football this season.

“Everyone’s first game of the season is always a sticky game so we’re excited to be playing a big team and maybe go out and hurt them. But, we’ll take each game as it comes and not look too far ahead at the fixtures.”

Perth Add Another Three In Pursuit of W-League Glory

by Ben Gilby

Perth Glory have continued to boost their squad with around four months to go before the next W-League season kicks off.

In the past week they have announced three further signings with the arrival of highly-rated goalkeeper Courtney Newbon plus midfielders Sarah Cain and Sofia Sakalis.

Above: Courtney Newbon arrives from Western Sydney Wanderers. Image: Perth Glory FC

Newbon, 20, arrives in Western Australia having spent the last two seasons with Western Sydney Wanderers, for whom she made a total of eight W-League appearances.

Regarded as one of the most promising young ‘keepers in the country, she twice claimed the W-League Save of the Week Award last term and is now targeting further success with Glory.

“It’s a new challenge for myself,” she said.

“I want to work hard for the club and hopefully help them build another Premiership-winning team.

“Head coach Alex Epakis is very much in the mind-set of getting the club back up towards the top of the table not just next season, but in the years to come as well.

“So I’m very excited to be joining Glory and can’t wait to get started.”

Epakis, meanwhile, is relishing the prospect of linking up with the shot-stopper once again having previously worked with her during his time at Sydney University.

“We are happy to have Court at Perth Glory for next season,” he said.

“She is joining us after spending two seasons at Western Sydney where she was able to showcase her ability and potential.

“Her shot-stopping and distribution skills are very strong and she is a focused and committed character.

“Despite her age, Courtney has experienced strong levels of success at various levels of the game and is a fantastic addition to our ‘keeper options.

“I look forward to seeing her progress and develop while working very hard to compete and add value to the squad.”

Sarah Cain made six appearances for Melbourne City in what was her maiden W-League campaign last year and is excited at the prospect of opening a new chapter in her career in Western Australia.

“I’ve heard a lot of great things about the environment at Perth,” said Cain.

“I’m also very excited to be working under Alex Epakis because he has such strong plans and aspirations for the team; that’s something I can’t wait to be a part of.

“I want to keep developing as a footballer, be in an environment where I can get the most out of myself as a player and help the team to achieve our goals.”

Australia Under-17 and Under-20 representative Sofia Sakalis (19) has penned a long-term deal having previously represented Melbourne City for whom she debuted in 2017/18.

“I’m super-excited to be joining Perth Glory and working with Alex,” she said.

“His vision and the style of football he wants to play really excited me and I’m eager and ready for a new challenge and a new environment that will allow me to grow into the player I want to become.

“I think Alex is building something exceptional and his long-term vision has really re-ignited my passion for the game.”

Epakis, meanwhile, is thrilled to have the midfield pair on board for 2021/22 and is confident that they will make a major impact in purple.

Above: New Perth Glory signings Sarah Cain and Sofia Sakalis. Image: Perth Glory

“Sarah has stood out as someone with great energy and with a strong understanding of her position,” he said.

“She is a very intelligent player with excellent positioning and passing skills which are important attributes in terms of the way we want to play this season.

“I have been tracking her for some time and she certainly has the determination to be part of a progressive environment and help the team succeed.

“I am really looking forward to working with Sarah and am expecting her to be a real asset for the team this season.

“With Sofia, those who have tracked the women’s game over recent years will be very familiar with her attacking talents and overall ability as an attacking midfielder.

“Having been involved in Melbourne City’s W-League set-up since the age of 13, making her W-League debut at 15 and representing Australia across various youth levels, it is clear that she has great qualities.

“Sofia has committed for the next few seasons to our project and is really looking forward to playing a big part in helping the team work towards our goals, as well as evolving and further developing her own game.”

Glory CEO Tony Pignata believes that the trio of new arrivals are yet more new recruits about whom the club’s Members and fans should be excited.

“We are really happy to have signed Courtney, Sarah and Sofia,” he said.

“The fact that we are continuing to secure young talent from across the country clearly illustrates the direction the club is moving in and the squad we are assembling is one which I’m confident will make a major impact in the W-League next season.”

Artwork: Graphics by PW

A Game To Showcase Talent And Depth

Netherlands 3-3 Brazil

By Abi Ticehurst

Above – Brazil celebrate. Photo: @oranjevrouwen

If you’ve ever watched Marta play, you’ll know she scores goals…and lots of them. And yet during the opening minutes of their second game of the tournament she sat incredibly defensively just left of Tamires. Proof enough of her workhorse rate down the left wing for the entirety of the game.

That said, a smart ball crossed pitch wide from left to right and chested down by Lynn Wilms before she fizzed it in to Vivianne Miedema to put the Dutch 1-0 up inside three minutes wouldn’t have suggested the Brazilians were looking particularly defensively-minded. That Miedema goal was a classic move too, she spun Erika the wrong way before turning herself and slotted the ball cool as a cucumber in the bottom right corner.

Brazil, understandably frustrated, were quick to put in a counter as Tamires guided the ball down the left wing and Marta pointed to exactly where she wanted it placed. A well weighted pass from the left back meant Marta was able to chase the ball comfortably and strike at goal but she was just off balance and it sent the attempt flying at an awkward angle. The Brazilian battling continued in their attacking third with a clash of the tens as Danielle van de Donk took on Marta resulting in a Brazilian corner. A poor clearance from the Dutch and calls for a penalty, Marta stood over the ball ready with game face on but after a lengthy VAR check, it was deemed a false decision and the game proceeded.

No sooner was their chance to equalise denied than Debinha took her chance. A defensive error by the Netherlands meant that Sari van Veenendaal could do very little and it was 1-1. Quick to fight back with an impressive counter, the Dutch thought hard for a second goal but Lieke Martens was unable to convert.

One thing of note regarding Martens, she consistently runs a very fine line, literally, whether that be down the left wing or when in the box, her pace means she’s able to craft a perfect ball to run onto and execute crosses effectively. A goal a piece at half time felt like the right score in this match up, also of note in this game is just how joyous the Brazilian switch passing in tight spots is.

Second half underway and the South Americans injected further pace into the squad on the right wing with the introduction of Ludmila da Silva. The Netherlands were able to make a convincing break less than ten minutes in, but it was a wasted opportunity as Shanice van de Sanden skied the chance way over the goal as she attempted to cross to Martens.

Above: Dominique Janssen crashes in a free kick to score. Photo: @oranjevrouwen

Another chance came as Martens got free to dance in between the defence but she spent just a little too much time which allowed them to reset and deny the attempt on goal. The ball was cleared out of the 18 yard box, but not for long as van de Donk was able to time the cross perfectly and a stealth like Miedema was hovering at the back post and headed home to make it 2-1.

More quick counter attacking from Brazil saw the ball back at the other end almost instantly and da Silva was brought down just as she stepped inside the box. Another VAR check was in order, no doubt this time it was one. Marta took and coolly slotted it in to make it 2-2.

A poorly executed pass by Aniek Nouwen back to van Veenendaal was latched onto by da Silva and the off guard keeper was caught out as it was dinked bottom right to make it 2-3. Certainly not the reason Nouwen was named my ‘one to watch’ in my pre-tournament Netherlands preview for Impetus!

The Dutch looked suitably flustered after the error and took considerably longer to settle back into the game with 20 minutes to go. However, it wasn’t too long before a dubious yellow was given to de Silva and the Netherlands were awarded a free-kick. And boy, Dominique Janssen did not disappoint. She stuck it clean to hit top bins and whilst Barbara was able to get a hand to it, the power behind the shot was too much for her to keep it out and it was all square at 3-3. 

A game that showcased the talents and depth of both sides, the Netherlands will face China next whilst Brazil take on the fascinating Zambian outfit.

Teams: NETHERLANDS: van Veenendaal, Wilms, van der Gragt, Nouwen, Janssen, Roord, van de Donk, Groenen, van de Sanden, Miedema. Substitutes: van Dongen, Folkertsma, Pelova, van Es, Kop, Beerensteyn, Jansen.

Scorers: Miedema 3, 59. Janssen 79.

BRAZIL: Barbara, Erika, Rafaelle, Tamires, Bruna, Duda, Formiga, Marta, Andressinha, Debinha, Beatriz. Substitutes: Poliana, Angelina, Ludmila, Jucinara, Geyse, Leticia, Andressa

Scorers: Debinha 16, Marta (pen) 65, Ludmilla 68.

Referee: Kate Jacewicz (AUS).

Attendance: 2,621

Things Are Getting Better, But Are We Out Of Time?

Kieran Yap reviews The Matildas performance in their game with Sweden yesterday and sees continued green shoots ahead of their final group game with the USA.

The Matildas team who took on Sweden yesterday is pictured above via Football Australia.

Five weeks ago, Australia drew 0-0 with Sweden in an encouraging if not inspiring performance.

The Matildas defended resolutely, Tegan Micah performed admirably on her debut and even though the hosts had not named their full Olympic line-up, they were denied an expected win.

This week Australia sits on the verge of the knockout stages of Tokyo 2020. Their destiny is in their own hands. If they win against the USA, they are through to the Quarter-Finals.

Importantly, they went toe to toe and almost goal for goal with the full strength Swedish side in a competitive match.

A missed penalty could have changed the game, Sam Kerr stepped up with the game at 3-2 and hit her shot on target but an athletic effort by Hedvig Lindahl was enough to deny her.

But beyond the result, the performance was a mix of what fans have become accustomed to and what Gustavsson is trying to instill.

Australia attacked with purpose, mixing individual skill and team interplay. the final pass was sometimes missing but the same could be said of Sweden, they just found it twice more.

Above: Sam Kerr on the charge for Australia against Sweden yesterday. Photo: The Guardian

The Matildas looked aggressive, they fought hard until the end and 3-4 would have been more reflective of the game after an earlier penalty was denied and Kerr again missed a one-on-one chance late on.

The midfield sat deep for most of the game in support of the defence and only got caught out when surging for an equaliser late in the piece.

The rotating back three still looked like a work in progress and gaps on the left were exploited by the brilliant Sofia Jakobsson but there is progress.

For the first hour against the Gold Medal favourite the margins were small. Two of Sweden’s goals came from counter-attacks which is not how this game was supposed to go.

Australia stands a chance against the USA. Many of our players have played with success in the American leagues and left for new challenges, but they know they can match them.

Gustavsson is a former assistant of the USWNT and if anybody knows the key to defeating them it is him.

From the 5-0 loss to the Netherlands and the 0-0 draw to Sweden the Matildas have found their mojo again.

They are improving and only Tuesday will tell us if they have improved enough in time.

There is no fun in being anything else but excited.

Beckie’s Brace Takes The Plaudits

Chile 1-2 Canada

By Catherine Paquette

Pictured above: Janine Beckie, who had a dominant game for Canada. Photo: Getty Images.

This match was arguably a must win for both teams.  Chile lost its opening encounter to Team GB while Canada dropped two points late in their game against Japan when the host nation equalized.  

Canadian coach Bev Priestman made several changes for this second game.  Kailen Sheridan replaced Steph Labbé as starting goalkeeper.  Labbé was injured in the match against Japan.  Allysha Chapman was rested and replaced by Jayde Rivière at left back.  Quinn started on the bench with Julia Grosso in their place.  The other members were the same as the first game.

Chile for their part made one change starting Rosario Balmaceda instead of Nayadet López on the right side. They played this game with what most often resembled a 5-3-2 formation.  Canada opted for a 4-3-1-2 formation. While Canada was the stronger side entering the game, it was not an assured win.

Chile showed their offensive capability early in the match.  They were awarded a corner in the second minute.   The corner found María Urrutia who tried, after receiving and controlling the ball, to pass it back in front of goal.  What could have been a threatening situation was then collected by Canada’s Julia Grosso and cleared from danger.

Canada were the next to threaten in the seventh minute.  A lovely passing move which started with captain Christine Sinclair finished with a deflection from goalkeeper Christine Endler’s save being re-deflected by Kadeisha Buchanan into goal.  However, the goal was waived off after it was shown that the re-deflection made contact with Buchanan’s arm.

Canada then went on to control the next ten minutes, with extended periods of Canadian passing play in the Chilean half.  However, through good Chilean defending, Canada could not penetrate the final third despite having a very fluid front line which rotated places often, making it harder for their counterparts to mark them. The longstanding Canadian final third problem continued to be a problem for the majority of the match.

The next goal scoring opportunity occurred in the 18th minute.  Daniele Pardo tackled Sinclair in the Chilean box.  After VAR review a penalty was awarded to Canada.  Janine Beckie was selected to take it but her attempt hit the righthand side post. The match stayed nil-nil.

The Canadians continued to attack.  They often advanced through the middle of the pitch, with quick series of passes between the midfields and strikers to move the ball forward.  They were at times a little too compact though, making it easier for Chile to defend them.

The Canadians were not the only ones on the attack though.  While Chile’s ability to move forward was at times impacted by the number of players who dropped back into their half to help defensively, they were able to get the ball up the field.  Chile preferred to use the right hand side when advancing, with Francisca Lara, Yessenia Lopez and Yanara López being particularly effective together at moving the ball forward.  

The breakthrough in scoring though came from the Canadians at the 39th minute.  After several minutes of pressure on the Chilean defence, Nichelle Prince made a good run up the right hand side of the Chilean box and crossed it in.  Endler deflected it forward and the ball found Beckie who made up for the missed penalty by one touch smashing it home.  The Canadians were up 1-0.

Several minutes later, Prince was once again nearly deadly with another sublime pass into the six yard box.  It was defended for a corner.  The teams finished the first half the with the Canadians having held the majority of the possession and shots on goal.

The second half got off to a quick start.  A Canadian attack was triggered by a fantastic pass into the box by Rose.  Beckie timed her run perfectly to the pass, was able to get in behind the Chilean defence with the ball and round Endler to score her second goal of the match.  The Canadians were now up 2-0 in the 48th minute.

Beckie nearly got a hat trick three minutes later.  Prince received the ball on the left hand side of the box.  She then dribbled around three defenders, nutmegged a fourth and passed the ball to Beckie.  The ball was defended just before it reached her though.

Chile for their part were able to attack back. In the 53rd minute Karen Araya passed a wonderful ball into the Canadian box. Daniela Zamora made a clever run in for it but was tackled by Shelina Zadorsky.  A VAR review that contact had been made and a penalty was awarded.

Above: Julia Grosso heads clear for Canada against Chile yesterday. Photo: Getty Images.

Araya was the Chilean chosen to take it.  She clinically put it in the bottom left hand side of the goal.  Even if Sheridan had gone the right way, there is arguably little she could have done about it.  It was Chile’s first goal in a women’s Olympic football tournament.

The remainder of the match continued as most of the game had gone before.  It was largely dominated by Canada, with several Chilean attacks.  Both sides had chances on goal.  Both sides also made several changes.  While it did affect the play, it did not affect the score line. 

After the full ninety minutes it remained 2-1 with Canada taking the three points.  

It is arguably an uphill battle now for Chile.  They sit on zero points with a -3 goal difference.  While they are not out of contention, and there is a possibility of progressing if they win their next match and other results go their way, this situation is highly improbable.

They meet tournament hosts Japan next, a very good and technical team who will play hard for a win as they only have one point out of their first two matches. Arguably though, regardless of whether they make it out of the group stage or not, Chile should be proud of their accomplishment.

The team was not even listed five years ago on the FIFA rankings due to inactivity.  Here they are five years later, at their second major tournament in a row.  What is most impressive is the quality of their play.  While they are not at the level of their more seasoned opponents, they are also not being blown out of the game.  Chile are playing with technical skill, tactical acuity and consistent persistence.  

They have shown in their first two games against difficult opponents that they can compete and be difficult to break through. One hopes that regardless the result of their next game, they will continue to get the funding and support to keep their program growing as this is a side with a lot of future potential.

Canada for their part, while winning this match, can be said to have underperformed so far.  While this match was an improvement on the last, more offensive capacity will be needed against Team GB should they desire to top the group.  This is most needed in the final third. 

They have shown they have the players to do this.  While Sinclair did have an off night, possibly disturbed by the nick she picked up early in the game, she still has the capacity to create and score.  Prince and Rose also had moments of brilliance throughout the match, creating scoring opportunities and taking shots on goal themselves.

The player of the match though, and arguably the most important offensive Canadian force at the moment, is Janine Beckie.  Despite her missed penalty, she showed she had the mental fortitude and grit to carry on and help her team get the win.  Contributing creatively in the midfield to bring the ball up, she also proved deadly in front of the net with two goals to prove it.

Above: Canada celebrate against Chile, but there are tougher challenges ahead for Bev Priestman’s team. Photo: Getty Images.

In the post match press conference Beckie stated: “We came here to win. To be able to help by scoring two goals makes me happy. A win’s a win,”  She should be happy, as should Canada.

Teams: CHILE: Endler (C), Guerrero, Lara, Araya, Urrutia, Aedo, Lopez, Pardo, Zamora, Balmaceda, Saez. Substitutes: Ramirez, Lopez Opazo, Acuna, Campos, Pinilla, Toro, Grez.

Scorer: Araya 57 (penalty).

CANADA: Sheridan, Buchanan, Zadorsky, Grosso, Riviere, Lawrence, Scott, Sinclair (C), Prince, Beckie, Fleming. Substitutes: Quinn, Rose, Leon, Viens, Gilles, Carle, McLeod.

Scorers: Beckie 39, 47

Referee: Esther Staubli (SUI)

USNWT Find Their Mojo Again

United States of America 6-1 New Zealand

By Kris Goman

Pictured above: Carli Lloyd shoots under pressure from Abby Erceg (Getty Images).

We come into this match with both teams needing the win after losses in their first group games.

The big surprise of course was the USWNT loss to Sweden. Not so much the loss but being beaten 3-0. A huge reality check for the World Cup winners looking to break the hoodoo of no team ever winning the Olympics after winning the World Cup.


They managed to turn their misfortune around in this match but not everything went the way of the Americans. The 6-1 scoreline looks like a thrashing and it was but the goal conceded that showed up their defence and two of the six goals were unfortunate own goals. The win moves them to second place in Group G with Australia to face on Tuesday.

Julie Ertz brings the ball through the centre and sends it up to Carli Lloyd, who in turn passes to Rose Lavelle but her shot is deflected.

On the rebound, Betsy Hassett clears to Liv Chance who puts a cross in that could have gone top bins but just goes out. Good to see NZ stepping up in attack early. Soon after Hannah Wilkinson shoots and gets the first shot on target and makes Alyssa Naeher dive to save.

We’re soon back up the other end and Megan Rapinoe takes a long shot out of the box that skims the crossbar.

Back in the USA box and Abby Erceg clears a tackle to Heath who passes to Lavelle who finds herself in the clear with just the keeper to beat. Not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth, she slots it past the keeper to the near post for the USWNT’s first goal of the tournament. 1-0 USA and you can tell the team breathe a sigh of relief.

Above: Julie Ertz in possession for the USA. Photo: Getty Images.

Lloyd trips up Ria Percival and NZ get a free kick. When taken it finds Erceg offside. Lloyd gets a flick over Anna Leat, the NZ keeper, but she’s well offside so no goal.

Erceg switches the play out to CJ Bott and she does a lovely cross into the box which is headed by Wilkinson and goes just wide of goal to the left, keeping Naeher on her toes.

A bit of US play in and out of the box eventually gets to Lavelle in the box but her shot goes into the side of the net. Rapinoe’s corner is kicked straight out by NZ. The next corner is played short and Ertz takes out Percival and the Football Ferns get a free kick. Crystal Dunn gets the ball in the left corner and passes back to Heath who kicks it straight past Leat into goal. However it is disallowed as Dunn was offside. We’re still at 1-0.

Then Lloyd gets the ball from Ertz but she’s obviously offside. They don’t call it and she cuts back to Rapinoe who scores but finally the flag goes up and the goal is cancelled.
USA is applying all the pressure now but the Kiwis are keeping a high line to keep them honest. Possession has been around 60% to USA.

Lavelle kicks the ball across the box to The Great Horan but she is called offside in a very close call this time. Heath gets a run down the right and takes a shot from outside the box, not risking yet another offside but Leat dives and saves it, in the save of the match.

NZ switches play out to Bott who sends a long ball into the NZ box. Wilkinson heads it back across goal and it skims the far post to go out on the right in a very near miss just before half time. So close to being one all and Bott has been very effective with these pin point long balls.

In stoppage time, there’s a corner that Rapinoe directs to the back post. Ertz heads it back across to Horan who heads it to the right of Leat and its 2-0 and Horan scores in her 100th match for the USWNT. One more corner is cleared before the half time whistle goes.

Above: Megan Rapinoe celebrates with Lindsey Horan after the number nine scored for the USA on her hundredth appearance. Photo: The Guardian

Despite the 61% possession of the USWNT,  NZ had three shots with one on target to the US’ five shots with two on target, which were both goals. The five corners to nil probably tell the tale a bit clearer. The USA are looking dominant. The Football Ferns; high line has been successful in stopping three goals. The Kiwis had three good shots so it’s not beyond them to score here.

In the second half,  USA continue to apply pressure with the overwhelming bulk of possession and territory. Lloyd takes Percival out again with a knee to the ribs in a challenge. It wasn’t intentional but it looked like it hurt.

Horan makes a couple of runs into the box that are cleared. Dunn is working the left side and gets the ball to Ertz who flicks it through to Lloyd. Erceg tackles just in time to put her off her shot and it hits the side netting.

A ball into the box from Horan to Lloyd has her heading it towards goal when Erceg tries to head the ball over the goal but only heads it over Leat and puts it into the back of the net out of reach of Leat. A disastrous own goal for Erceg and NZ. 3-0 USA.

NZ’s first corner is forced by captain Ali Riley. It comes to naught. First substitution sees Chance go off, who’s had a fairly quiet game, to be replaced by Paige Satchell, who could shake things up.

The ball comes up the centre and Wilkinson and Tierna Davidson go for it. Davidson is shouldered off the ball and USA get the foul as Wilkinson shoots into Naeher’s arms.

The USA do a couple of substitutions with Rapinoe being replaced by Christen Press and Lavelle coming off for Sam Mewis. Lloyd takes the captain’s armband from Rapinoe.


Ertz rockets a long ball from the centre circle to Press in the box but she can’t control it and it’s cleared.

Satchell dodges a few defenders to dribble it into the box. She’s beaten Abby Dahlkemper and draws Naeher out before passing back to Betsy Hassett who thumps the ball into an empty goal. Hassett gets the glory but Satchell created the magic. 3-1 USA.

Above: New Zealand goal scorer Betsy Hassett on the ball. Photo: Getty Images.

At 73 minutes, Lloyd is off and Alex Morgan comes on and takes over the captaincy.
Press gets a ball down the left and centres to Horan in the box. The shot goes wide and Press was offside anyway.

At 79 minutes, Daisy Cleverley comes off for NZ and is replaced with Gabi Rennie, the goal scorer against Australia. The game is still within reach for NZ.

Ertz brings the ball down the right side and crosses straight to Press at the top of the box who controls and shoots in a fluid movement and puts it straight in the back of the net in a class goal. Suddenly, the game is no longer within reach for NZ. 4-1 USA.

NZ haven’t given up hope yet and are still pressing. Katie Bowen wins a corner. Percival takes it and sends it to the back post but it’s cleared with no major threat.

More substitutions and for the USWNT, Dunn is off with Casey Krueger on and Horan is off with Catarina Macario coming on. At 86 minutes, Hassett is off for NZ, replaced by Annalie Longo.

Press gets the ball in the left of the box and squares it across to Morgan who kicks it straight in for another goal for the USWNT. Press now has a goal and an assist and the floodgates have opened. 5-1 USA.

In stoppage time, Press takes a shot from the top of the box that floats clear of goal. Mewis sends a long ball across from the right to Press in the box. She shoots and Bott deflects the ball into the goal in the last seconds of the game to make it 6-1 USA and send Australia to third place in the table. This is a shame as Bott has had a really good game and is now clearly distraught.

USA celebrate their win and a few team mates catch up with hugs. Dunn and Rapinoe are hugging and chatting with Tom Sermani who was the USWNT coach when they first made the team.

USA have their mojo back and get the three points and second place on the table. They play Australia next and will be looking to consolidate this win. Given the current state of Group F, it’s likely both Australia and USA will go through to the knockout stage of the tournament regardless of the result unless Zambia beat Brazil or China beats the Netherlands. On current form, this is unlikely but not impossible. And goal difference can still be critical.

New Zealand play Sweden next. It’s hard to see them winning that match but if they did it would come down to goal difference and today’s blow out makes it very difficult for them to get ahead of Australia into third place.

Teams: USA: Naeher, Dunn, Davidson, Dalkemper, Sonnet, Horan, Ertz, Lavelle, Rapinoe (C), Lloyd, Heath. Substitutes: S. Mewis, Sauerbrunn, Press, Morgan, Macario, Kruger, Campbell.

Scorers: Lavelle 9, Horan 45, Erceg OG 63, Press 80, Morgan 88, Bott OG 90+3

NEW ZEALAND: Leat, Bott, Erceg, Moore, Riley, Percival, Bowen, Cleverley, Chance, Hassett, Wilkinson. Substitutes: Naylor, Green, Bunge, Rennie, Longo, Satchell, Rolston.

Scorer: Hassett 72.

Referee: Stéphanie Frappart (FRA)

Better From Chile But Not Enough

Chile 1-2 Canada

by Jean-Pierre Thiesset

Above: The Chilean team that took on Canada yesterday in the Olympics. Photo: Today in 24.

Despite playing a lot better for their second game, Chile lost again.

The South Americans started the game with a lot of desire and pressed Canada in the midfield.

After only one minute, Yessenia Lopez gained possession in the centre circle and Chile obtained a corner kick after they drove the ball towards the Canada goal line. Chile had the best of the early exchanges but Canada started to push forward and earned a corner kick of their own at the fourth minute.

This was the beginning of Canadian domination. They increased the tempo playing quicker with short passes and the game was more balanced. Despite this, Chilean keeper Christiane Endler was able to show her skills by dribbling past a Canadian forward to clear the ball.

Unfortunately for Chile, after eighteen minutes, Canada were awarded a penalty. Janine Beckie put the ball against the right post whilst Endler was beaten because she dived on the left side, and the score line stayed even at 0-0.

Canada increased their dominate a little bit more and after half an hour, Canada had 61% possession. This possession was finally turned into a goal in the thirty ninth minute when a cross came in leading to a shot which was repulsed by Endler but Beckie was there to hit a rebound past Endler’s right for 1-0 at the break.

At the beginning of second half, Canada increased their pace and used all the width of the field, giving Chile’s players a lot of problems to defend effectively. At the forty seventh minute, Beckie, who came from a borderline offside position, got hold of a cross and dribbled past Endler to put the ball into an empty net. It was going too fast for Chile.

Chile players continued to try to play and to press Canada players. Their fighting spirit allowed them to obtain a penalty kick on a counterattack and Fernanda Araya scored after fifty seven minutes.

From this time, Chile came into the game a lot more with the possession stats closing to 43% for Chile and 57% for Canada.

Chile were almost rewarded for their hard work after 77 minutes when Lopez’s shot hit the bar with Canada goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan was completely beaten.

After this warning, Canada finished strongly but were not able to increase their lead.

Chile showed everyone that they know how to play good football and even if they were dominated, they were able to cause a few problems to Canada. This Chile team is very pleasant to watch and we can be sure that they will continue to improve. Their final group game against Japan is sure to be interesting.

Teams: CHILE: Endler (C), Guerrero, Lara, Araya, Urrutia, Aedo, Lopez, Pardo, Zamora, Balmaceda, Saez. Substitutes: Ramirez, Lopez Opazo, Acuna, Campos, Pinilla, Toro, Grez.

Scorer: Araya 57 (penalty).

CANADA: Sheridan, Buchanan, Zadorsky, Grosso, Riviere, Lawrence, Scott, Sinclair (C), Prince, Beckie, Fleming. Substitutes: Quinn, Rose, Leon, Viens, Gilles, Carle, McLeod.

Scorers: Beckie 39, 47

Referee: Esther Staubli (SUI)

Swedes’ Superior Organisation & Ruthlessness The Difference

Sweden 4-2 Australia

By Ben Gilby

Sweden reinforced their status as many people’s new favourites for the Gold Medal with a ruthless victory over Australia this morning (Stina Blackstenius pictured scoring their fourth goal via The Guardian).

The major news pre-game was that Sweden welcomed back Magda Eriksson after she was forced to leave the friendly between the two sides back in June. For The Matildas, Teagan Micah, who has been in impressive form since making her debut in that aforementioned game against the Swedes, replaced Lydia Williams in goal.

Australia began the clash with Hayley Raso targeting Jonna Andersson on both flanks – a ploy that worked so successfully for the Everton star when she faced the Swede in her club shirt in an FA Cup tie in May.

Sweden were allowing Australia to play a patient passing build-up through the midfield, with the Scandinavians’ strong defence able to nullify any threat once the Matildas got close to the box.

Caitlin Foord was energetic and busy early on in the middle third but despite the amount of possession that Australia were generating, they were not able to force Hedvig Lindahl into making saves.

Above: Caitlin Foord was busy throughout the game. Photo: Getty Images.

This failure to turn possession into goals came back to haunt the Matildas with 20 minutes on the clock when Kosovare Asllani fed Filippa Angeldahl and her low cross wrong footed Clare Polkinghorne which allowed Fridolina Rolfo to score.

Australia’s immediate response underlined their first half performance: great approach work and movement, comfortable on the ball, but around the box moves fell apart with regularity with the final ball being a major issue.

Sweden forced two corners around the half hour mark, from the second, Angeldahl volleyed wide directly from Micah’s punch clear.

Then, at last, the Matildas produced a final ball of real quality and reaped the reward instantly. Kyah Simon curled in a glorious cross for Kerr to head goal wards. Lindahl got a hand to the ball but couldn’t stop it from crossing the line and Australia were level. Kerr’s header ensured she became her country’s all-time record scorer at the Olympic Games.

Above: Sam Kerr celebrates after getting on the scoresheet once more for The Matildas. Photo: Fox Sports

Five minutes before the break, Hana Glas and Sam Kerr were involved in a challenge on the left hand edge of the six yard box which brought a contrasting verbal exchange from the two teams. The Swedes were audibly appealing for a yellow card for what they viewed as a Kerr dive, with the Australian captain herself heard to be urging referee Edina Alves “you gotta look at that!” In the end neither side got their wish, and it was a goal kick. It remained 1-1 at the break.

The Matildas came out firing at the start of the second half. A glorious diagonal ball found Foord. The Arsenal star put in a beautiful cross for Kerr who comfortably got in ahead of Andersson to score.

However, that was as good as it got for Australia as familiar defensive issues raised their head once more. Tony Gustavsson’s shifting from a back five to a back three is very much a work in progress and Sweden took advantage.

Australia’s lead lasted for just four minutes. Angeldahl was involved once more for the Swedes in the build-up as she played in Sofia Jakobsson whose teasing cross was met by Lina Hurtig, who got in ahead of Ellie Carpenter to slot home.

Above: Kyah Simon linked up well in the first half in particular for The Matildas. Here she rises above Jonna Andersson. Photo: Getty Images.

The Swedes took the lead just gone the hour mark when Rolfo was allowed acres of space to run into and smash home from outside the box for the culmination of just over ten minutes of total Swedish domination.

Tony Gustavsson introduced Alanna Kennedy and Kyra Cooney-Cross in a bid to re-set and re-charge the ranks and it led to a flurry of more controlled and consistent possession.

Shortly afterwards, the Matildas had a great chance to level when VAR adjudged that Angeldahl caught Foord in the box and a penalty was awarded. Kerr stepped up, but Lindahl produced a great one handed stop as Australia’s woes from the penalty spot continued.

Into the final ten minutes, Sweden had now contained Australia once more and they took advantage to clinch victory and their Quarter-Final place with a game to spare when Aslllani aimed a clever cross between Polkinghorne and Kerr which allowed substitute Stina Blackstenius, in red hot form for BK Hacken, to make it 4-2.

Above: Stina Blackstenius celebrates after scoring Sweden’s fourth. Photo: Getty Images.

Mary Fowler produced another promising cameo from the bench for the Matildas and she played a beautiful inch perfect ball into the path of Kerr with four minutes left, but the Chelsea star’s side footed effort was saved by Lindahl.

In the end, Sweden were far more cohesive and had superior know-how both in terms of defensive organisation and offensive ruthlessness.

In their first game against New Zealand, the Matildas were able win despite failing to turn possession and chances into goals. This morning, Sweden provided Tony Gustavsson’s side with a very painful lesson of what the top sides do to you when possession isn’t converted onto the scoreboard.

Teams: SWEDEN: Lindahl, Glas, Ilestedt, Eriksson, Andersson, Angeldahl, Asllani, Seger, Jakobsson, Hurtig, Rolfo. Substitutes used: Bjorn (for Glas), Blackstenius (for Hurtig), Bennison (for Angeldahl), Schough (for Jakobsson) Janogy (for Rolfo).

Scorers: Rolfo 20, 63 Hurtig 51 Blackstenius 81.

AUSTRALIA: Micah, Luik, Polkinghorne, Carpenter, Catley, Yallop, Van Egmond, Raso, Foord, Kerr, Simon. Substitutes used: Kennedy (for Luik), Cooney-Cross (for Yallop), Fowler (for Raso), Gielnik (for Simon).

Scorers: Kerr 35, 47.

Referee: Edina Alves (BRA).

Ben Gilby writes for Beyond90, Australia’s leading independent women’s football platform. Visit https://beyond90.com.au/

Impetus Announce Sponsorship of Smara Sparkes-Bond

Impetus are proud to announce the sponsorship of Helston Athletic’s Smara Sparkes-Bond, a defender who is a key member of their squad. To launch the sponsorship, Ben Gilby spoke to Smara about her career. Graphic supplied by Helston Athletic.

Smara has been part of the women’s footballing scene in Cornwall for a while.

“Where do I start with my footballing journey? I feel like I have played the game for years now, although I guess looking back it has been 20 years which instantly makes me feel old and questions whether it’s time to hang up my boots?!

“Whilst I didn’t start playing for a team until I was 10 years old, My twin Sasha and I would be at the local park every day kicking a ball around with our Dad desperate to play.

“My Dad would really push me from a young age to be the best I could by encouraging me to use both feet, practice skills and be confident to shoot. The local park was where I actually spotted by Falmouth Town Girls U12’s manager who invited Sasha and I to play for them. This was exciting and the first opportunity to play for a team and whilst we enjoyed the opportunity, it was short lived as we were desperate to play with our friends who played for Falmouth United U12’s. Falmouth United was a fantastic junior team managed by Steve Oliver who pushed us to win the league four times consecutively- it felt great being so young but being involved such a successful junior team, we begun to be named ‘unstoppable’.

“Unfortunately, after such success, there was a little lull without much team football due to the lack of opportunities to transition in girls’ football. I am so fortunate that today young girls are supported and given the opportunity to naturally transition from youth to ladies’ football – especially at Helston.

“Whilst playing for a team stopped, meeting my friends in the local field and playing competitive World Cup or heads and volleys didn’t stop – the love grew.

“Hitting the age of sixteen was amazing regarding my footballing career and I was given the opportunity to step into ladies football and play for Penryn Ladies. I loved the challenge that ladies football brought – tougher opposition, more physical, longer matches and more fixtures.

“After Penryn folded, I went and joined Falmouth Town Ladies managed by Neil Phillips.

Above: Smara in action for Truro City. Photo supplied by: Smara Sparkes-Bond.

“Neil was a natural in the world of management and pushed me to be the best player I could be. I can hand on heart say Neil made me fall in love with the game more and is a huge part of the player I am today in my blue Helston shirt. Whilst I miss Neil, I do not miss the blood, sweat and tears caused at his training sessions which consisted of endless fitness and drills – but hey it made us be one of the best women’s teams in Cornwall.

“After a few seasons, we decided to merge with Truro City to form Truro City Ladies which was an unbelievable team full of great players. We came runners up in our first season in the Premier Vivision. Unfortunately, this league brought on lots of travelling and became difficult to retain committed players which eventually caused us to fold.

“Still wanting to play football, Sash and I decided to join Torquay United for a season to keep up the high standard of football and continue challenging ourselves. This saw us having to travel to Torquay twice a week for training and fixtures and therefore could only be done for one season.

“After Torquay, I decided I still wanted to play football with my friends but locally to home and less travelling- this is when I decided to form Helston Ladies with Charlotte Sparkes-Bond. It took a lot of commitment to form Helston but eventually we got accepted into the Cornwall Women’s league and had an extremely successful starting season.

“At Helston, we celebrated being league cup winners and also league runners up, but again, similar to other teams we lost commitment and the team ended up folding after a few years.

“From Helston I went to play briefly for Illogan, before getting the message I had been waiting for that Helston was reforming and Paul Parfitt would become manager.

“I met with Paul back in January 2019 and his plans for Helston made me excited and I knew I wanted to be back in a blue shirt so without hesitation signed – which brings me to the present day.”

Smara’s development and standing in the Cornish game is down to the amazing support she has received from an early age.

“There have been many people involved in my footballing career who have encourage and inspired me to keep playing and to play at the best level.

“The first and most important person involved is my Dad. My Dad was the most supportive parent I could have asked for throughout my footballing career and was always my number one fan. My Dad took Sash and I to every game and every training session regardless of distance and always encouraged us to do better.

Above: Smara (left) battles for possession in her Truro City days. Photo supplied by: Smara Sparkes-Bond.

“It was my Dad who got me into football before I started, taking Sasha and I to watch Liverpool and buying us our first kits. My Dad still comes and watches my games now.

“The second inspiration is my twin Sash. Playing alongside her throughout my whole footballing career has been amazing. Sash has always played the opposite position to me and therefore it’s been funny in training when we have had to play against each other.

“Sash does a lot for the ladies at Helston and is the perfect captain encouraging the whole team and doing as much off the pitch as she does on the pitch. Sash has always been a unbelievable goal scorer and I can’t remember any seasons where she hasn’t won top goal scorer.”

I asked Smara to describe herself as a player for those who have not seen her play.

“My playing position has changed over the years and I have been described by others as a versatile player who can comfortable play in any position within the defence or midfield.

“I have historically been known as a sweeper throughout my footballing career and have taken up this position again at Helston. I play with a confidence, believing in my ability to take on any challenge from any player. Through my experience in the sweeper position, I am vocal with supporting my team mates around me and often command from the back as the last man. I like to play out from the back. I have never been afraid of putting in a tackle and enjoy the successful sliding tackles.”

Above: Smara captured in action for Helston Athletic. Photo supplied by: Smara Sparkes-Bond.

Helston Athletic are a side on the rise in Cornwall. Last season ended with them them winning promotion to the tier six South-West League Division One West and play Southampton in the FA Cup. Smara outlines what life is like at the club.

“I cannot fault life at Helston and life as a blue. It’s the first club I have played at in 20 years where the treatment of men’s and women’s football has been the same.

“The support from the club is amazing and we regularly see Paul Hendy the chairman attending our matches along with members of the men’s first team.

“We have lots of support from the men’s first team manager Steve Massey, who rarely misses our matches and even has adopted the role of our linesman.

“As a women’s team we are extremely lucky to not have to pay any match fees or signing on fees and instead are provided amazing facilities and match day opportunities. My team mates are all extremely talented girls who are committed and motivated to make Helston the best we can be.

“Paul our manager is super dedicated to the team and is always making sure we have state of the art equipment and travelling options to our away fixtures. Off the pitch, we are regularly provided with team bonding days all expenses paid and this shows in our closeness on the pitch.”