AFC Wimbledon Foundation event is a great success
Dons defender Will Nightingale and Watford FC Ladies player Stacie Donnelly presented the prizes at an event staged by the AFC Wimbledon Foundation for FA Girls Week.
A five-a-side tournament held at Goals in Tolworth on Wednesday was won by Gillingham FC Girls Academy, the team from Kent beating Merrist Wood College (Chelsea Foundation) in the final.
But of greater significance was promoting girls and ladies football with Stacie, a rising talent in the sport, helping to do that.
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Watford Ladies play in the Women’s Superb League Division Two, but Republic of Ireland Under-17 international Stacie, like many of her team-mates, is semi-professional and also has a full-time job.
“It’s very important to support events like this because we want the women’s game to be as big as it can be,” said Stacie. “To see so many girls of this age still playing is great for the future. I’ve played for Watford for three or four seasons now.
“It’s very tough because we only get an hour and a half each night for three times a week together. We have to do bits and pieces before and after work. It’s a massive commitment, but we play for the joy of the game and to hopefully become professional one day.”
Will Nightingale said: “I’m not an international like Stacie and I’ve only got a few caps in League 2! It’s brilliant for a player like Stacie at a big club in the women’s game to come down for an event like this. It’s great to see girls at this age still interested and hopefully the sport will continue to grow.”
College teams affiliated to professional football clubs were joined at Wednesday’s event by local universities from near and far. The University of Greenwich and the University of Chichester were among nine teams taking part in the round-robin tournament.
Emma O'Connor, Football Development Officer for Female & Disability at the AFC Wimbledon Foundation, said: “This is the third year of our involvement with the FFD (Female Football Development Programme) and we run a variety of sessions. Since England’s women came third in the World Cup, there has been more interest. That’s not just come from teenage girls and we’ve put on social football events for over-30s before first-team games on a Saturday. Hopefully, interest will continue to pick-up.”