AIK Women – Breeding Ground For Success

by Ben Gilby

AIK (pronounced “Orr-Ear-Kor”) are based in Solna, a city around seven miles outside of Stockholm. Their men’s side were formed back in 1891 and play home matches at the National Stadium (firstly the Rasunda, now Friends Arena). The women’s side, AIK Fotboll Dam presently play in the Elitettan, the second tier of the women’s game in Sweden. The top of the division this season has been exceptionally strong with up to six teams chasing promotion to the top tier of the Swedish women’s game, Damallsvenskan.

Impetus editor Ben Gilby spoke exclusively to AIK Fotboll Dam’s head coach, Robert Svanström about his club and players, plus the historic and contemporary state of the women’s game in Sweden, one of the world’s strongest nations in the sport.

Svanström firstly outlined the status of the wider club: “AIK is one of the biggest clubs in Sweden if you measure it by supporters and also in success in different sports. The men’s team get regular crowds of almost 20,000, which, in Swedish club football, only two other sides come anywhere close. The club is probably most known for football but has also has success in Ice Hockey, Floorball, Bandy, Wresting and some more sports. That’s not unusual in Sweden that clubs has several sports under the same name. The club was founded in 1891 and has been successful in football over the years winning the Swedish men championship twelve times (first time 1900 and the latest in 2018). The AIK Women team played their first game in 1970 and having fourth position in the top tier Damallsvenskan in 2008 as their best result.”

Above: AIK Fotboll badge on their distinctive black shirts with yellow trim. Photo: Ben Gilby

In terms of their overall relationship with the men’s AIK side, Svanström explained: “We are two teams in the same club and of course we are getting support from the men’s club. It’s important for the club to represent on the women side and we are having enough financial support to play in the division we are right now, but of course we could need more to play in the highest division. In terms of playing matches at the men’s stadium, we had a game at the Friends Arena (54,329 capacity) in May against Uppsala, but that was only possible because the men’s team played the same day. I guess it’s too expensive and there are too many events at the arena to have our games more often then maybe once a year. It was fun to be there for one day but at the same time we don’t have any needs to have it as our home ground. (AIK Dam play at the 4,000 capacity Skytteholms Idrottsplats) The last couple of years has seen AIK having problems to establish in themselves in the Damallsvenskan. We have been relegated three times since 2010. AIK has an identity and history of developing young players and when we are promoted to Damallsvenskan it’s has maybe been a little bit too early for them. The young players have been good enough to promote from Elitettan but maybe not ready for Damallsvenskan. When AIK were relegated in 2012 and 2015, the players moved on to other clubs and AIK needed to start over again with new players.”

The promotion race at the top of the Elitettan has been incredibly tight this season, with Umeå IK, IK Uppsala, IFK Kalmar and AIK’s local rivals Hammarby IF all battling it out with Robert Svanström’s charges for the two places in the Damallsvenskan. Whilst the top sides are doing exceptionally well, Svanström admits there is a divide in the division: “It’s a big difference between the teams at the top and the bottom. Elitettan is a semi pro-league where the players are paid but having other income at the same time. The league is perfect for young ambitious players to prepare them for Damallsvenskan.”

AIK’s heartbreaking 2-1 loss at Hammarby on Saturday in front of an impressive second tier crowd of over 2,400 has all but ended the Solna based side’s hopes of promotion this season – but Svanström has seen plenty this season to make him pleased with the progress of his team: “I would say it’s two things we are most pleased with. First, we are pleased to manage to develop the team’s style of playing. It’s the first year for our coaching team and the players have been really fast to learn to play football in the way we want to play. If you look at our games I think you would see a well organised team that plays an offensive and skilful football. The second thing I’d like to mention is the individual development in a lot of our players. A lot of our players didn’t have any experience from elite senior football before this year and they have really learned fast how to play on this level. Also a lot of our older players have performed better this year than they did earlier. Going forward, Svanström believes that if his side are”able to perform on our top level more often”, they can go one better and achieve promotion in 2020.

The future looks incredibly promising for AIK, as part of their very strong player pathway development plan from girls to senior football: “It’s a part of our vision to have a majority of the roster from our own academy. For the moment ten of twenty players are from our own academy. Having them representing the national youth team is some kind of a recognition that we are doing things right. Players in national teams this year are Emma Engström in the Sweden U23 side, Wilma Ljung Klingwall, Elsa Törnblom, Clara Härdling, Johanna Lindell, (Sophia Redentrand har also been called up but not playing games) in the national U19s and Rosa Kafaji, Serina Backmark in the Swedish U17s side,” Svanström proudly reveals.

These players and more coming through the system make AIK’s head coach confident his team can make themselves an established Damallsvenskan side once promotion is achieved: “I am absolutely sure that it’s possible. If we can have time to develop the players we already have in the club we can make them to players in Damallsvenskan. It’s important that we make it attractive for the players to choose to stay at our club. For that we need money but also a good organisation where the players feel that they can develop.”

Whilst Sweden was historically one of the strongest countries and leagues in the world of Women’s football, the nation now finds itself behind nations such as England in the status of its domestic league. Svanström identifies that Sweden’s early strength in the women’s game was due to the fact that, “for decades it has been non-controversial for young girls in Sweden to play football and other sports as young kids. I guess that has to do with the society in Sweden and that we have been pretty early compared to other countries in equality between genders. It has also been very important with pioneers in the Swedish women football in the 70’s to 00’s, from Öxabäck IF to Umeå IK and also players like Pia Sundhage, Malin Moström and Hanna Ljungberg. They were breaking new ground and were great role models for younger players. Nowadays we see Swedish women football losing its position as one of the leading nations in the world. Damallsvenskan is no longer the best league in the world with the development of the women football in England and Spain for example. Even if it’s still natural for girls to start playing football as kids, it’s not that given that women players should have the same opportunity as the men in the highest level.” Despite the change in status of the Damallsvenskan, Sweden’s third place finish in the recent Women’s World Cup, plus clubs like AIK bringing through large numbers of talented players, the potential is still there for a bright future both at AIK and Sweden internationally.

Follow us on Twitter – @impetus49255112 and on Instagram at https://instagram.com/impetuswomensfootball.

Ben Gilby is the editor of Impetus and has over fifteen years experience in voluntary media officer roles within the sports of Football and Rugby Union, has appeared on BBC Radio Cornwall and BBC Radio Norfolk sports shows several times and published the book ‘The Game: Tales From A Season Travelling Around The Rugby Union Grounds of South-East England’.



Thorisdottir Thunderbolt Settles Classic

Impetus editor Ben Gilby was at Kingsmeadow for a quite outstanding Barclays FA Women’s Super League game, which was settled by a goal of sheer class.

Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal

Chelsea firmly banished the nightmare of their home humiliation by the eventual Super League champions by putting in a second half performance of extreme skill to send the Gunners to their first defeat of the season.

In doing so, Chelsea moved into second place in the table, firmly banishing memories of a start to the season which critics voiced fears over Emma Hayes’ side’s ability to mix it with the likes of Manchester City and the Gunners.

In front of a crowd of over 4,100, Arsenal started confidently and took a deserved lead after nine minutes when Dutch star Vivianne Miedema floated past too many blue shirts for the home support’s liking, and found her fellow countrywomen Danielle van der Donk who carefully placed her shot into the left hand corner of the net, well out of the reach of Ann-Katrin Berger in the Chelsea goal.

Chelsea’s Sophie Ingle turns away from Jill Roord. Photo: Ben Gilby

Van der Donk had a quite outstanding first half, popping up both on the right hand side and through the middle. She was giving the Chelsea defence major headaches. Despite Arsenal more comfortable on the ball, and seemingly having too much time to construct their silky passing build up, they only had the one goal to show for their efforts. The Chelsea defence, marshalled by Millie Bright, who returned to action after missing Lionesses duty, did their jobs well to the extent that Berger didn’t have too much to do in terms of shots to save.

Chelsea came into the game gradually as the half wore on, but never seemed to have quite the same guile and technical skill in their approach work. Fran Kirby got herself into good positions, but did not receive enough ball to weave her magic in the opening stanza, and Beth England was worryingly quiet, as Arsenal lead 1-0 at the break.

Chelsea pile on the pressure with a second half corner. Photo: Ben Gilby

The key to the game was always going to be the next goal. Chelsea came out determined to show their worth. Ji found England, whose first real effort was fired over the bar. Kirby became actively involved, and Chelsea reaped the rewards as Arsenal were continually on the back foot. Kirby buzzed around and dispossessed Jen Beattie. The England ace rampaged through and squared to England who, spun round, flicked it up and hit a low shot into the net.

It was now all Chelsea, with Erin Cuthbert adding her idiosyncratic bite to the action. Ji went close. As the game entered the final five minutes, Chelsea earned a second goal which their approach work richly deserved, and when it came, it was an absolute peach. Picking up the ball in the midfield, Norweigan international Maria Thorisdottir curled a magnificent shot into the net from over twenty yards. It was a glorious goal to settle a glorious game.

Arsenal, with Jordan Nobbs on, raised their game in the closing stages, but were not able to unlock the home defence again. Chelsea deserved the victory for their second half performance, and will take great heart from staying with it during Arsenal’s long spell of creative pressure in the opening period.

This was women’s football at its best and the near capacity Kingsmeadow crowd loved every minute of it.

Teams: CHELSEA: Berger, Mjelde, Eriksson, Bright, Andersson, Reiten, Ingle, Ji, Cuthbert, Kirby, England. Subs: Thorisdottir (for Reiten 74), Spence (for Ji 81), Bachmann (for Kirby 74), Asante (not used), Carter (not used), Cooper (not used), Telford (not used).

Scorers: England 57, Thorissdottir 85.

ARSENAL: Zinsberger, Evans, Williamson, Beattie, McCabe, Walti, Little, Roord, Van der Donk, Miedema, Mead. Subs: Veje (not used), Mitchell (not used), Peyraud-Magnin (not used), Grant (not used), Filis (not used), Nobbs (for Walti 64).

Scorer: Van der Donk 9.

Referee: Rebecca Welch.

Attendance: 4,149.

Dominant City Down Rangers

Impetus editor Ben Gilby saw the lunchtime Scottish Women’s Cup Semi-Final via BBC Scotland coverage online. Here is his review of the game:

Glasgow City 4-1 Rangers

City eased through to the Scottish Cup Final with what ended up being a comfortable win over Rangers – but only after overcoming the loss of a key player through injury and then going a goal behind.

This match was the first part of a double header of cup action at Stirling Albion FC’s Forthbank Stadium on a grey, chilly but dry day, with the second semi-final between Hibernian and Motherwell following in mid-afternoon.

Favourites Glasgow City started strongly, earning a corner in the opening minute. From the clearance, Rangers broke clear, but City’s Sam Kerr dispossessed the attacker before she was taken down by a scything challenge from Chantelle Brown who, surprisingly was not cautioned.

Two early chances followed for City – Shine had an effort disallowed before Rangers midfielder O’Hara’s pass was intercepted by Kirsty Howat who played in the influential Clare Shine. Her shot was well saved by Baillie in the Rangers goal.

With just nine minutes played, Chantelle Brown committed her second crunching challenge, this time on Leanne Crichton. The Glasgow City star was in a great deal of pain, and after seven minutes of treatment had to be replaced. A yellow card was shown this time, but in all honesty it could so easily have been red.

Despite losing a key player, Glasgow City continued to dominate. With twenty-five minutes played, they earned back to back corners. The impressive Shine headed the second over from Hayley Lauder’s flag kick.

However, the last fifteen minutes of the half saw Rangers on the ascendency. They earned their first corner after thirty-two minutes. Brownlie’s effort was cleared for a second. This time, Brownlie found Carla Boyce in the six yard box and the Rangers star headed home.

City had a number of chances to level before half-time. From a corner of their own found Leanne Ross on the outside of the six yard box, but her shot was over the bar. Clare Shine had a chance two minutes later, after a smart, patient passing build-up, but Baillie ran out of her goal and slid in to clear the danger. Shine was denied yet again as she rounded Baillie and shot towards an open goal, but Rangers defender Laura Gallen raced across to clear. Jo Love then hit a superb drive which was tipped over by Baillie. From the resulting corner, Eilish McSorley turned it home for 1-1 at the break.

Glasgow City’s equaliser ensured the momentum remained with them throughout the second half, with Kirsty Howat’s effort going wide. It only took a further two minutes for the favourites to finally grab the lead when, from a corner, the ball went in off of Sam Kerr on fifty-one minutes. The pressure continued with Rangers failing to clear a further City corner. The ball pin-balled around the box, was cleared off the line several times before Rangers finally cleared the danger for another corner. As the ball came in, Jenna Clark’s shot crashed back off of the post before finally the Light Blues escaped.

With twenty minutes to go, Glasgow City finally established the margin that their dominance deserved. Hayley Lauder broke away and found Rachel McLauchlin who slid the ball home for 3-1. City spurned two further chances when McLaughlin’s header failed to hit the target, and just two minutes later, Kirsty Howat’s shot was well saved by Kelly.

Finally, Glasgow City gained a fourth goal, with five minutes left. Howat laid the ball off to McLaughlin who smashed it home for her second of the afternoon.

Glasgow City richly deserved their win, and showed some real patience to stick to their beliefs and game plan despite being frustrated and denied by Rangers time after time. They now face perennial rivals Hibernian in the Scottish Women’s FA Cup Final after the Hi-bees saw off Motherwell 4-1.

Teams: GLASGOW CITY: Clacher, McLaughlin, Lauder, Love, Crichton, Howat, Shine, Docherty, Ross, Kerr, McSorley. Subs: Alexander (GK), Clark, Sinclair, Reid, Paton, Girasol, Foley.

Scorers: McSorley 44, Kerr 51, McLaughlin 70, 85.

RANGERS: Baillie, L. Gallon, Watson, Dalgleish, O’Hara, Campbell, Gemmell, Brownlie, Boyle, Brown, Bourma. Subs: Ramsay, Cameron, Napier, Honeyman, J. Gallon.

Scorer: Boyce 32.

City Storm To Fourth Straight Win

Manchester City 3-0 Birmingham City

From the tweets of Daisy Wildsmith.

City were exceptionally strong out of the gate, stamping their authority on the match from the very start. Caroline Weir and Jill Scott made some great interceptions.

However, standing in their way, quite literally, was Hannah Hampton in the Birmingham goal, who I believe is one of England’s future goalkeepers. Also impressive for the visitors was Sarah Mayling in defence. For the Sky Blues, Lauren Hemp returned from her international debut in inspired form throughout and Steph Houghton was imperious in defence.

Manchester City’s first real chance came after some beautiful link-up play saw Janine Beckie in, whose effort was narrowly off of the mark. Aoife Mannion’s impressive crossing was also causing no end of problems for the visitors defence to deal with, but in the opening half hour they did deal with it well, until Keira Walsh scored the first goal of the afternoon. It remained 1-0 at the break.

Tessa Wulleart added a second for the Citizens three minutes after the break which effectively ended the game as a contest. Lauren Hemp’s outstanding afternoon continued as she supplied a sublime cross for Lee Geum-Min for finish for 3-0. The outstanding one-two which put Hemp in was a joy.

Manchester City’s comfortable victory sees them continue their 100% start to the Barclays FA Women’s Super League season. Birmingham City remain bottom without a point.

Daisy Wildsmith is a regular contributor to Impetus and she is a Women’s football fan from the West Midlands.

United Take The Honours In Battle of the New Girls!

Tottenham Hotspur 0-3 Manchester United

by Connor Wroe

At the start of the day the teams were one place and three points apart, with Spurs having the better start to their new life in the WSL sitting in fifth with two wins out of three whilst Manchester United were sixth with three points after their recent 2-0 win over Liverpool kicking off their campaign. Both teams have played well so far in their new home, putting in good performances in every game, despite Spurs having a better start on paper, United had a tough start playing both Manchester City and Arsenal losing both 1-0 in tightly fought games. A win for either side today could prove vital in their quest to stay up. Last time around, Manchester United beat Spurs in both fixtures in the Championships. They were hoping to do the same again this time in the Super League.

The Hive, home of Barnet FC, London Bees and Tottenham Hotspur Women is a brilliant stadium, the pre match chants for United could be heard showing there to be a seemingly strong presence from the travelling supporters around the stadium. Manchester United’s exciting new youngster Lauren James was in the starting line up again hoping to have as good as a performance as she did against Liverpool where she scored a fabulous solo goal.

Spurs started off proceedings and lost the ball within seconds of kick-off with Lauren James dispossessing Spurs in their own box. If it wasn’t for some superb goalkeeping from Spencer, United would have been 1-0 up after a scramble in the box. The post and the keeper denying United 30 seconds in. The playing style that Spurs wanted to implement of keeping possession was working for them going forward but in their defensive third it seemingly put them under pressure due to the pace of United attacking. The opening ten minutes was a captivating display of end to end football with both teams creating chances but failing to do anything with them.

United creating the better chances of the two, with the game being very open early on for both sides. United’s pressure on Spurs finally paid off on the thirteenth minute mark when Galton picked up the ball and drove at the Spurs defence. She shot but there was enough bodies in the box to block the shot but the ball only managed to find Hansson who stayed calm under pressure, took a touch then slotted in a near post to put the visitors ahead.

Every time Spurs managed to get past the pressure from United within their own half, the visitors’ defence stayed disciplined and dealt with everything Spurs threw at them. The game could have gotten worse for Tottenham 20 minutes into play Godfrey went down holding her knee after a fair challenge from James seemingly lead to a potential hyper extension. Luckily for Tottenham she seemed alright to continue with the game.

Tottenham struggled to defend against United’s fast movement. Every time the ball game into the box it was a red shirt which was first to it. Luckily for Spurs, United have issues so far this season of not being able to take chances. The home team struggling to do anything in the first thirty minutes with the game being all United. Yet one thing that will concern the management is not converting those chances.

The final ten minutes of the half saw Spurs manage to find a foothold in the game, but failing to do much with the ball. It was 1-0 to United at the break with Spurs going in happy to only be trailing by a single goal based on the number of chances created by United.

Manchester United started off the second half with Lauren James hungry for a goal. She glided past the Spurs defence several times but failed to finish – the one thing that is missing from her game

The high pressure and fast play from United forced a goal fifty one minutes in with the United attack being poorly dealt with and the Spurs defence getting dispossessed on the edge of the box. Galton picked up the ball and charged into the box. She put in a low cross which Neville turned into her own net to give the visitors the second goal they needed.

Spurs rallied and Furness, who can hit the ball had a wonderful strike from around twenty-two yards out and forced a marvellous save from the United keeper Mary Earps.

United had another chance following a fabulous counterattack from a Tottenham corner lead by James they opened up the home side’s defence and Galton found herself with a one on one. Spencer was quick off her line to close the space down. Galton shot was saved but bounced over the keeper to then be cleared off the line by Filbey but only as far as Stigsworth who dragged her shot wide of the far post.

The final ten minutes saw Manchester United doing what was needed – sitting back but staying disciplined in defence. Lauren James however got sent off on 90th minute for a second bookable offence. She had played so well. From the resulting free-kick given away, United spring a counterattack with a fantastic first touch from Galton who ran down the wing before playing in a perfect cross to the feet of Jane Ross who couldn’t miss and put it in to make it 3-0.

A special mention needs to go out to the United fans who made the long trip down form Manchester for todays game. They kept on singing throughout the game and created a fantastic atmosphere, whilst the Tottenham fans stayed quiet. Was this the difference in the game?

 Connor Wroe is a regular contributor to Impetus and “follows all things sport – both men and women”.

In My View

From the tweets of Daisy Wildsmith. In a midweek special of her column, Daisy gives her opinion on the Lionesses clash with Portugal in Setubal.

On Tuesday night, the most impressive thing for me was that England’s approach play was so often outstanding. It was so frustrating that Portugal seemed happy playing a 10-0-0 formation which made the conversion of any chances difficult. The Portuguese were also wise to Nikita Parris’ threat and knew to smother her on the right hand side. Parris did her best though and was always looking around at who is around her and at what both sets of players were doing. Her decision making was very good.

It wasn’t just the attacking play that was so promising, England’s defence was much improved. Lucy Staniforth was also outstanding. On the downside, it did look like there was too much power on many of England’s passes.

Jordan Nobbs’ appearance from the bench marked her out as a game changer. When the goal came, it was with mixed emotions – thankfully England’s dominance was rewarded – but it was a shame it wasn’t a more decisive one. I felt they needed another, rather than relying on a goal keeper’s butter fingers to win. It was heart in the mouth time with Portugal’s free-kick that wasn’t even a free-kick which came back off the bar and then

For me, England’s star performers were Lucy Staniforth, Nikita Parris and Steph Houghton. Going forward, I think the moments of brilliance need to be more continuous and consistent. The performance needs polishing still. Rachel Daly and Lauren Hemp would make a deadly combination, but overall the work ethic throughout was great.

Daisy Wildsmith is a regular contributor to Impetus and is a Women’s football fan based in the West Midlands.

International Round-Up

Impetus editor Ben Gilby brings you up to date with the host of international women’s football over the past week.

Two further rounds of Euro 2021 Qualifiers have taken place.

Last Friday in Group A, Netherlands were given a shock at the Fazanerija City Stadium when Slovenia took the lead through Mateja Zver. Despite Vivianne Miedema and Lineth Beerensteyn putting them ahead, with 22 minutes left, the Slovenes hit back with Kaja Korosec hitting the leveller. Two goals from Sherida Spitse saved the Netherlands’ blushes as they went on to gain a 4-2 win. The bottom two sides in the table – Turkey and Estonia played out a 0-0 draw in Istanbul. Netherlands moved six points clear at the top of the group on 8th October when they defeated Russia 2-0 in Eindhoven. Danielle van der Donk and Vivianne Miedema were on target. Slovenia moved second after sweeping aside Turkey 6-1, with Lara Prasnikar hitting a hat-trick. In the night’s other game, Kosovo kept alive their play-off hopes with a 2-1 win in Estonia with Modesta Uka scoring both.

In Group B, on 4th October, Italy went second in the group with a comfortable 2-0 win at the Ta’Qali stadium in Malta, thanks to goals from Elisa Bartoli and a stoppage time penalty from Christiana Girelli. Two sides with a hundred per cent winning record came head to head in Viborg, and it was Denmark who went clear at the top of the table after they saw off Bosnia Herzegovina 2-0, with Stine Pedersen and Sanne Troelsgaard on the scoresheet. The top two increased their stranglehold over the other countries on 8th October. Italy saw off Bosnia Herzegovina 2-0 in Palermo thanks to goals from Christiana Girelli and Manuela Giugliano. Denmark were also 2-0 winners, this time in Tbilisi over Georgia. Mille Gejl and Nicoline Sorensen were the scorers.

Norway went top of Group C in the only match of 4th October, as the World Cup Quarter-Finalists left Belarus’ Haradski Stadium with a 7-1 win. But not before the home side caused a major stir by taking an eighteenth minute lead courtesy of Anastasia Shcherbachenia. The Norweigans hit back in some style with goals from Isabell Herlovsen, Maria Thorisdottir, Guro Reitten, Caroline Graham Hansen (2) and Lisa-Marie Utland. On 8th October, Norway extended their lead to two points at the top as they went on the rampage again, this time in the Faroe Islands. Hat-tricks from Caroline Graham Hansen and Isabell Herlovsen, two from Ingrid Engen plus further strikes from Lisa-Marie Utland, Amalie Eikeland, Karina Saevik, Frida Maanum and Elise Thorsnes completed a 13-0 win. Wales stay second after a 1-0 win in Belarus, thanks to a goal from Rachel Rowe.

Spain opened their account in Group D’s only encounter of 4th October with a 4-0 win over Azerbaijan in La Coruna. Patricia Guijarro, Virginia Torrecilla Reyes and Aitana Bonmati (2). They are second on goal difference behind Czech Republic. The top two met on 8th October, with the Spanish gaining a comprehensive 5-1 win. Jana Sedlackova, Mariona Caldentey, Aitana Bonmati, Irene Parendes and Jenni Hermoso scored in Prague.

Group E staged one game on 4th October, and Portugal joined a three way tie at the top of the table with a 1-0 win in Albania. Jessica Silva was on the mark. The Portuguese are third behind leaders Scotland and Finland. The Finns took advantage of the Scots inactivity to go top by three points on 8th October after easing past Albania 8-1. Linda Sallstrom hit four of the goals, with Anna Westerlund, Heidi Kollanen, Sanni Franssi and Ria Oling got the rest.

World Cup bronze medallists Sweden continued their flawless start to the Group F programme with an impressive 5-0 win in Hungary. On the scoresheet were Magdalena Eriksson, Madelen Janogy (2), Eva Jakobsson and Loreta Kullashi. The Swedes stand three points clear of Iceland. At the bottom, Slovakia gained their maiden win of the campaign after coming from 1-0 down to win 2-1 in Latvia thanks to goals from Patricia Hmirova and Jana Vojtekova. Karlina Miksone scored Latvia’s goal. The top two tightened their grip on the group on 8th October when both gained big wins. The Swedes demolished Slovakia 7-0 in Goteborg. Kosovare Asllani, Lina Hurtig, Linda Sembrant, Gun Bjorn, Stina Blackstenius, Fridolina Rolfo were on target. Iceland hit Latvia for six of the best in Liepaja. Fanndis Frioriksdottir grabbed two with Dagny Brynjarsdottir, Elin Jensen, Alexandra Johannsdottir and Margret Vioarsdottir scoring the others.

Serbia continued their hundred percent start to life in Group G with a 6-0 win in North Macedonia on 5th October in the day’s only match. Braces from Dina Blagojevic and Marija Vukovic, plus strikes from Tijana Filipovic and Dejana Stevanovic completed the rout. Austria condemned the Serbs to their first loss on 8th October with an impressive 1-0 win in Nis thanks to Nicole Billa’s strike. France finally opened their campaign with a 3-0 win in Kazakhstan thanks to Valerie Gauvin, Eugenie Le Sommer and Marie-Antoinette Katoto’s goals.

Switzerland remained top of Group H with a 3-0 win away to a Lithuania side who are still to find a win in their qualifying campaign. Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic’s penalty got the ball rolling ahead of strikes from Rahel Kiwic and Vestina Neverdauskaite’s own goal sealed the deal on 4th October. Their fine start continued four days later with a 2-0 win over Croatia. Ana-Marie Crnogorcevic and Geraldine Reuteler were on target. Belgium remain hot on their heels thanks to a 1-0 win in Romania courtesy of Laura De Neve’s goal.

Germany racked up a third straight win to cement their place at the top of Group I with a comprehensive 8-0 destruction over a Ukraine side who are still to score their first goal in the campaign. Hat-tricks from Klara Buhl and Lina Magull, plus goals from Giulia Gwinn and Melanie Leupolz in Aachen completed the victory. They moved six points clear at the top on 8th October with a 5-0 win in Greece. Alexandra Popp, Lena Oberdorf, Sandra Starke, Pauline Bremer and Klara Buhl scored. Republic of Ireland are second following a narrow 3-2 win over Ukraine. Katie McCabe, Rianna Jarrett and an own goal from Lyubov Shmatko earned the win.

FRIENDLY ROUND-UP

As well as a full slate of European qualifiers, there have been a few friendlies taking place around the globe. Apart from England’s duo of friendlies over Brazil and Portugal, there were several other internationals over the past week. On 4th October, France gained a comfortable 4-0 win over Iceland, and the United States marked the end of Jill Ellis’ reign with a 2-0 success over South Korea and a 1-1 draw against the same opposition two days later. On 6th October, Chile eased past Uruguay 3-0 and Japan gained a mightily impressive 4-0 win over Canada. Last night, Chile repeated their success over Uruguay, this time winning 3-1 and Brazil left Poland with a 3-1 win.

Poles Apart: Forty Years of the Matildas

by Ben Gilby

Yesterday marked the fortieth anniversary of the first recognised international for the Australian women’s national team when they took on New Zealand on 6th October 1979. The circumstances faced by these pioneer members of the Matildas are poles apart from their present day counterparts.

It is important to emphasise that Australia is a country where sport has often been one of the ultimate expressions of male strength and identity. The Matildas journey has been an inspirational one from to widespread indifference to national adulation. To make ‘The Matildas’ task even more impressive, one needs to remember that football is, at best the fifth most popular spectator sport in Australia, meaning that they did not even have a high profile men’s version of the sport to support them.

Despite an Australian National women’s football team being sent to the 1974 Asian Women’s Championship, it is fair to say that squad was far from being representative of the whole nation – the vast majority were the single state of New South Wales. In 1978 another representative side, with players drawn from New South Wales and Western Australia gathered for training on poor quality pitches in full public view, with what could be described at best as “banter” and at worse as “verbal abuse” being fired towards the players as they trained. Their crime? Simply playing football. This squad were dispatched to the World Women’s Invitational Tournament in Taipei against a number of top club sides and international representative sides. No caps were awarded to those participating in this event.

That first fully recognised Australian women’s international took place at Seymour Show Park in Miranda in a small southern suburb of Sydney. The historic line-up was Sue Monteith (Queensland), Shona Bass (Victoria), Kim Coates (Victoria), Dianna Hall (South Australia), Carla Grims (South Australia), Fiana McKenzie (South Australia), Sandra Brentnall (Western Australia), Judith Pettit (Western Australia), Sharon Mateljan (Western Australia), Julie Clayton (Western Australia), Cindy Heydon (New South Wales), Julie Dolan (New South Wales), Toni McMahon (New South Wales), Jamie Rosman (New South Wales), Rosie van Bruinessen (New South Wales) and Leigh Wardell (New South Wales). Coach Jim Shelby was assisted by Noelene Stanley and Elaine Watson. The game finished a 2-2 draw with fifteen year-old Sandra Brentnall, born in Nottingham, England scoring the historic first ever Matildas goal. Sharon Mateljan added the second in a 2-2 draw. The two sides met again two days later, with the Kiwis taking the honours 1-0. Unlike today, of course there was no nationwide publicity to advertise the game. Instead, one of the players, Julie Dolan recalled how the players were dispatched to the area around the ground to post flyers through letterboxes.

Above: Australian Women’s National Team – Forty Years Photo: Ben Gilby

After the first encounters, the Sydney Morning Herald did report on the match but their piece was more akin to the freakshow variety of such an occurrence than a fully-fledged international sport event.

It wasn’t until 1983 that the Matildas played a nation other than New Zealand. Indeed, they went over two years without a fixture between 1981 and 1983 when they played three matches in five days away from home against New Caledonia, Fiji and perennial opponents New Zealand. It took until 1987 for Australia to face a nation from outside of the Oceania region (Canada).

These early Australian female footballers did not just have to face the verbal volley of scorn from the general public. Some had to put up with the derision of their own husbands and families. ABC (Australia) News reported last year how Stephanie Quinn, tour manager of the Australian side in the 1980s recalled the husband of one player deliberately destroying his wife’s football boots in a bid to stop her playing any more. In the same decade, players were having to run straight from work to play for their country with absolutely no preparation whatsoever.

The Australian National women’s team are now firmly established as one of the most prominent and popular teams in the country in any sport. They have global superstar Sam Kerr up front, who is respected and revered as an athlete just as much as her older brother Daniel, who was an outstanding Australian Rules Footballer with West Coast Eagles. Kerr is a winner of the Julie Dolan Medal (named after one of those first Matildas), and her nationwide profile was recognised in 2018 as she was voted The Young Australian of the Year.

It is not just Kerr who is leading the present day Matildas. She is surrounded by an array of outstanding players. The anniversary of their predecessors first ever full international is going some way to give the original Matildas their deserved moment in the spotlight. If it wasn’t for those pioneers in the late 1970s, Australian women’s football would not be what it is today.

Ben Gilby is the editor of Impetus and has over fifteen years experience in voluntary media officer roles within the sports of Football and Rugby Union, has appeared on BBC Radio Cornwall and BBC Radio Norfolk sports shows several times and published the book ‘The Game: Tales From A Season Travelling Around The Rugby Union Grounds of South-East England’.

In My View

From the tweets of ImpetusDaisy Wildsmith. This week, Daisy turns her attention to the Lionesses’ game against Brazil at Middlesbrough yesterday.

This was an afternoon which started with so much to be proud of – Lucy Bronze being given her World Cup award in front of a packed Riverside Stadium by Baroness Sue Campbell, the inspirational Jill Scott overtaking Alex Scott in the appearances board after earning her 144th cap and Jordan Nobbs back in an England shirt.

The game itself began with the Lionesses playing patient football offensively and smothering Brazil to prevent them gaining any accuracy in their shots. The early stages saw some beautiful play from Alex Greenwood and the England defence working seamlessly with keeper Mary Earps. Defensively there was such an improvement on recent games.

Also showing great composure was Jodie Taylor who took time to see who was open whilst approaching the moving ball to see who would be available. The positivity in the squad was also great to see – even on the sidelines – the grin on Lucy Staniforth’s face whilst warming up was infectious. Plenty to be happy about in that first half performance.

This energy, drive and improved defensive shape was great to see, the players’ hearts and minds were fully in the game, and this is precisely what made it so frustrating that Brazil took the lead after the interval. England stayed strong, Keira Walsh was involved in some nice play. I was absolutely convinced that a goal was coming for the Lionesses. In the end a goal did come. But it was for Brazil. Despite the second for the visitors, the crowd still clearly believed in the Lionesses, and so did I.

That belief was rewarded by Bethany England’s superb skilful header – her first international goal, and the Lionesses were on their way with ten minutes left. But sadly, it was not to be,

The skill on display from Lucy Bronze was incredible. Beth Mead, Alex Greenwood and Jodie Taylor were hugely influential. Its a cliché, but there were so many positives from the Lionesses performance. The defence in the first half was really strong and much improved. You could feel the passion and the motivation from the squad throughout. The World Cup hangover is over. They just couldn’t find a way through a heavily defended Brazil goal in the first half, and appeared to switch off at the start of the second half which allowed the first goal in.

The crowd sounded amazing, cheering until the end. The sound of 29,000 people enjoying what they were seeing was fantastic. I was gutted that the Lionesses didn’t get the win, but I think its definitely coming on Tuesday (away to Portugal). Another cliché, but there is lots to take away from the match in terms of lessons that will be learnt in time for Tokyo 2020. On to the next one!

Daisy Wildsmith is a regular contributor to Impetus. She is a women’s football fan based in the West Midlands.

Magpies Rising Like A Phoenix From The Flames

Impetus editor Ben Gilby talks to Notts County Women manager Adam Dunleavy about the team’s incredible progress since they entered the league system for the 2018/19 after the heart-breaking loss of the original club.

The original Notts County Ladies side were created in 2014 after the Lincoln Ladies team formed some nineteen years previously were relocated across to Nottingham. That Lincoln side had achieved top flight status and had become the first women’s football team to play an entire season in a professional stadium, having been based at Sincil Bank. In 2017, Notts County were forced to pull out of the Women’s Super League Spring Series which bridged the sport’s transference from a summer season to one taking place from September to late spring. It was devastating, but out of the ashes a Magpie shaped phoenix has arisen.

 In this period, Adam Dunleavy was working for the Notts County Football in the Community scheme and through mutual connections at the club, was asked to attend a meeting with the then owner Alan Hardy. He takes up the story. “I put my vision across to Alan to reform the women’s team and start again from the bottom of the English football pyramid. It was a couple of years early in the clubs plans but I was given the green light to go ahead in the May of 2018. I then set about bringing in a backroom team before we put the word out in the public domain with an open day at Meadow Lane. We then went through the process of affiliating to the league and FA as well as the trials for players which ran the span of the summer to the back end of July. The club already had a junior girls section from under tens up to under thirteens and so the framework was in place to have a sustainable academy for the future.”

Ahead to their return to the league system for the 2018/19 season, the club realised that stability was the watchword: “Being a completely new set up and knowing that our league had some established teams, our main aim was to make sure we were competitive. From there it was about laying a foundation on which to build and not rush the process. We had a rocky start with a couple of heavy defeats to the eventual league winners Northampton Town, which really welcomed us to the party. As we began to find our feet, we started to build consistency before setting a club record of unbeaten games, winning away at Northampton and beating Oadby at Meadow Lane in front of over 700 people. We went above and beyond any expectation set out to us at the beginning and I will be forever proud of the team of players and staff that made it possible,” Dunleavy reveals.

In putting Notts County’s female side back on the pitch, the coaching staff identified that the key to any hope of success was the environment provided for the players: “My assistant Adam Woolley and I believe steadfastly in creating an environment where players want to play. Where they feel part of something bigger and build a team mentality. Over the course of the season the team bonded and became a family. We know that every time they cross the white line, they are prepared to fight for each other and for us as a staff. As a club and a staff, you are only as good as the players at your disposal, and we got our recruitment right. With all of that falling into place, and the girls feeling like they had something to prove on our return to the women’s game, we fostered a perfect environment together that saw us exceed expectations across the board.”

A huge part of the success of the new Magpies side has come with the positive and multifaceted links between the women’s side and the men’s outfit as Dunleavy reveals: “We have seen brilliant support from the men’s side of the club over the last year, and we hope to continue to forge a relationship with the clubs’ new owners and explore ways in which we can work together. We use some of the facilities at Meadow Lane to train and have our own page in the Men’s matchday programme which helps us to keep fans in the loop about our season. Allied to this is a fantastic relationship with Notts County Football in the Community, who provide us with gym facilities and a classroom for sessions in the week. Linked closely to this, we will certainly be looking to play a couple of games at Meadow Lane again this season. The last fixture we played there was a fantastic success. We were incredibly proud of being able to give tickets to schools through our partnership with Football in the Community and get hundreds of school kids to the game to help showcase young women, playing at a professional sports stadium. Our biggest aim with playing at Meadow Lane is to help grow the profile of the women’s game locally and hopefully inspire more young girls into the game”

Dunleavy is more than aware that the he can’t rest on the laurels of last season’s successes: “Our main aim has to be to go one better than last season. We finished as runners up which is an incredible achievement for a team in its first year. Now we have set the foundations, we believe this group can achieve big things, be it this year or next. The key is to keep improving and to not stand still. As for the club, we want to continue to develop young payers to break into our senior section and provide the best possible environment for girls to grow with the club. We are lucky to have a wonderful team of coaches and volunteers who run the junior section, many of which are the unsung heroes of the club.”

He is also mindful that the club has benefitted by the significantly improved profile of the women’s game: “We have seen a massive increase in both interest and participation in the women’s game since the World Cup but it is probably traceable to the Olympics in 2012 when Team GB caught the nation’s attention and it has snowballed since then. The FA are committed to doubling participation which they are on course to achieve and fans are starting to come to more games across the country as the game grows.  We currently have over 100 girls in our junior section. They play from our under nines team all the way up to the under sixteens which means that our pathway is now complete, and it won’t be long until we see the fruits of the homegrown players, breaking into the senior teams at the club.”

However, Dunleavy is clear that for County to enjoy sustainable success, it needs more than just an established player pathway and more supporters. “The key to success is to have a dedicated group of volunteers and staff that passionately believe in the women’s game. There is not yet, anywhere near the kind of money that the men’s game commands, so we must be more resourceful. We are incredibly lucky to have a lot of local businesses that support us through player sponsorship, as well as an anchor sponsor in Ramsay Healthcare that back us financially. It is also imperative that we continue to develop, grow and retain our players in the academy and make sure that we can provide elite players, capable of competing in the women’s leagues. With that in place, we can create a sustainable model that is futureproof and ambitious at the same time.”

Looking to the future, the Notts County manager is hugely positive, not just for women’s football as a whole, but also for his own club: “I believe that we will continue to see the rapid expansion and growth of the women’s game to heights we have not yet experienced. It is the fastest growing game in the world and with the increases in exposure to the general public that will only continue. We have the honour of seeing a major international women’s tournament hosted in England in the summer of 2021 and if the Lionesses can be in the mix at the end of the tournament and even win it, it will spur the media, corporations and ultimately fans to support the game. As for Notts County Women, I hope that we are able to see our team competing in the third tier of the Women’s game and feel that the National League is a realistic target in that time frame. From that point it will all come down to investment and support and if the appetite is there, my team and I have a structured and sensible plan on how to achieve promotion to the top two divisions. With the FA rules around payment of players and minimum hours, there would then need to further investment to see us reach that goal.”

Whilst Notts County women’s relationship with their men’s side is hugely positive at the present time, Dunleavy is aware that the there needs to be a degree of self-sufficiency for all women’s teams: “I think the fact that the infrastructure is in place with men’s teams and the commercial and publicity that comes with that affiliation makes it easier for Women’s teams to attract support. The end goal has to be for every EFL team to be supporting and inclusive of their women’s team. That being said, we all know how volatile and unpredictable football can be, with what has happened to Bury and Bolton Wanderers. I think that it is important for Women’s sections to welcome the support but also look to be financially self-sufficient to a point where they do not have to rely solely on the men’s side of the club. We have taken the approach this season to do exactly that and it puts us in a position where we know that we can provide the players with everything they need and make sure that we are on a stable financial footing for the years ahead. If all teams adopt that model, then hopefully the women’s game can continue to grow sustainably without the casualties that we see in the men’s equivalent.”

We thank Adam Dunleavy for his time and participation in this feature article. Notts County Women are presently top of the East Midlands Division One South with three wins from three. They play their home games at Ilkeston’s New Manor Ground, with aims of staging at least one game at Meadow Lane. Impetus will return to Notts County Women and will update readers on their progress as the season develops.