Fighting Talk

Afternoon everyone, I’m Arsenal’s Gilly Flaherty. Welcome to my blog!

I am currently writing this blog before one of my final boxing training sessions. This Friday night (2nd of August) I have my first ever charity boxing fight. Some people think I am absolutely crazy to be having this fight, and perhaps these people may be right or they may be wrong, but this is something I have to do, for several reasons.

The main reason is because I am raising money for Millwall Girls Centre Of Excellence for the 2013/14 season. I work as a coach there and I am now entering my fourth season with them. The money we raise will be a massive boost for the club and I know it will go towards great things for the girls.

I was a player at Millwall’s Centre of Excellence when I was growing up so the club means a hell of a lot to me. It’s in my blood, so anything I can do to help the club out I will…even if that includes taking a few hits to the chops 😉

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Secondly, I am doing the fight to show people that I can. When I first signed up to this about three months ago, nearly everybody laughed as soon as they found out. The banter I have received has been constant!

But I have put myself through 10 weeks of hard work, travelling over an hour and a bit for midweek sessions and then giving up my Saturday mornings all for this fight. For three rounds of two minutes…But I know this fight will mean more to me than just a scrap. I want to show people that if I put my mind to it I can achieve anything I want to.

No one expects me to be any good, but I’ve learned a lot over the 10 weeks, not just in regards to technique but about myself too. I’ve learned to take a hit – several times to the face may I add! – and come back every time. There have been sessions when I have come away and I’ve questioned if me doing this fight was such a good thing after all. But I refuse to give up, and I refuse to let people down. I refuse to let down the 60+ people who have bought tickets to support me, and the people who have donated generously to the cause. And I also refuse to let down the players and staff – and the club as a whole – at Millwall. I’m nervous and I’m excited for Friday…let’s just hope I do everybody proud!

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I’m pleased that I had boxing training to keep me busy throughout the break as I was able to mentally relax from football. Next Saturday we resume our league campaign against the current league leaders Liverpool.

The league is so tight and anybody can beat anyone. We have everything to play for so the second half of the season should be an interesting one. If there is one thing I can promise the fans of Arsenal Ladies it is this…whatever happens in the next few months – I won’t be giving up on our league title or our Continental Cup without a fight…

Until that final whistle blows on the last day of our season I will keep fighting for this club. It is in our own hands to lose both and we will need every single fan to support us for the res of the season!

Please don’t for one minute think we don’t recognize or appreciate the time you give up to come and watch us play, or all the tweets of support you send us!

I know that regardless of what happens in my fight this Friday, or what happens this season, I’ll always have the support of my Arsenal/Football family.

G

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Toni Duggan: ‘Disappointment will inspire me’

It’s not really that nice to be back with the girls at Everton. Nothing against my team-mates but I should have been out in Sweden a lot longer than I was.

But it is what it is. The tournament wasn’t meant to be for us and my focus now turns back to club football.

A lot of individual players have been asked what went wrong a few times but I don’t think there was one thing you could put your finger on. I think it was a coming together of things. It just didn’t happen for us. On the pitch we were ready, before we went into the tournament we had done all our preparation right but it just didn’t happen out there. We now have to look back, review and see what we can improve on.

I did receive a fair bit of media coverage while I was out there, especially after my goal against Russia. It is nice to be recognised but to be honest I was just thankful to get time out on the pitch. To get the goal that kept England in the competition, obviously you are going to get attention from the media and people back home.

It was a nice feeling but it didn’t overshadow the disappointment of us not succeeding at that tournament. I would have given up that goal if it meant us going further than we did. But as I say, it wasn’t meant to be. I can be happy personally from what came out of the Euros but it was still disappointing for the team.

I have always been determined to succeed with England – not doing so well in Sweden hasn’t changed that. Since playing in the youth teams with England – whether it has been away for a friendly or a training camp – I have always wanted to be in that squad. It is a difficult thing to get into and it’s always important to be there or thereabouts. I will continue to kick on and fighting for my place because it is not always guaranteed.

The disappointment out in Sweden will inspire me for the rest of the WSL season. Football is not all rosy, not all up, up, up or always positive – you are going to have set backs. It’s about bouncing back from them and hopefully that’s what I can do.

Back at Everton, hopefully I can pick up where I left off before the break. I thought I had a good first half of the season so I want to take that into the second half.

I am pleased to have scored a few goals. It’s good to be the number nine in the team, but it comes with a lot of responsibility. I thrive off that though. Now that I have it on my back I just want to score goals. I feel that is my job but I want to help the team however I can. If other people are scoring and we are achieving then that doesn’t bother me too much.

The gap between us and the top two is seven points but everyone has to play everyone. We’ve seen from the first half of the season that anyone is capable of beating anyone in the WSL so who knows what will happen.

All I know is that we will be confident and a lot stronger than we were in the first half of the season. The second ‘pre-season’ has gone well and hopefully we can get off to a good start against Bristol Academy.

Two weeks in Manchester…

I must admit I never included “Spend two weeks in Salford Quays” on my bucket list, but that’s exactly what I’ve been doing since the beginning of the 2013 UEFA Women’s European Championships (think I’ll add it on just so I can tick it off).

I’m currently sitting in the back of my boss’s car heading down the M6 towards Heathrow. Our flight for Gothenburg leaves at 4pm today (Tues 23rd July) and I can’t wait to arrive in Sweden.

My next blog will be about the Swedish adventure but first to reflect on the past two weeks at the BBC studios, which are situated in MediaCity, Salford Quays, Manchester.

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The first thing that made my jaw drop was the sunshine. Two weeks of sun in Manchester is unheard of so I’ve decided to personally take responsibility for bringing the fine weather with my sunny disposition alone (disclaimer: early mornings not included in sunny disposition).

In a nutshell, it’s been great! I think I’ve loved it because it reminds me of being on tour with my teammates.  Although touring with the Matildas never included 12-hour working days, no exercise, after work drinks or watching Gok Wan makeover women in under 45minutes…or did it? You know what they say, “what happens on tour, stays on tour!”

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The BBC has been extremely welcoming and cooperative since we arrived and I think that has shown in the quality of programmes that have aired across BBC2 and BBC3.  The viewing figures have been pleasing to all involved and even though it wasn’t the fairytale ending for the England team, the interest has continued through to the knockout stages of the tournament.

This coverage is a big deal for women’s football in England.  We are constantly fighting an uphill battle for recognition because this country is saturated with men’s football steeped in history and tradition.

Women’s football still has a long way to go and I am a firm believer that we shouldn’t just be given recognition or coverage because we’re females, we need to earn that right, like everyone else does.

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Sal’s Story

“I aspire to a world where… We can enjoy the moment, the challenge, the rewards, the ups… and downs. Love yourself and trust the process of this thing we call ‘life’. Don’t fear mistakes, no-body is perfect.  Always ask questions and embrace the new. Be content but also continue to grow…I am still figuring myself out. We don’t want to understand everything in the world, it spoils the fun. Be yourself and don’t belong to anyone’s ‘box’ but your own.” 

My passion for football was instilled from a very young age. My three brothers and I had a very active childhood and I inevitably chose whichever sports my brothers played. As a young girl growing up in Wagga Wagga, sport was in abundance. I eventually narrowed it down to one, the most beautiful game for me, football.

My progress up the ranks from the country town of Wagga to Sydney to then debut for Australia was rapid. I’d made the goal clear for myself at 12. Four years later I debuted for Australia. Quick.

I am the youngest footballer to have represented my country at an Olympic Games. This feat however, in my mind is tarnished somewhat as it was at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, I first tried to make myself sick.

When I begin to recall crucial times in my life, situations & happenings are blurred by a battle I’ve grappled with for a long time and only recently felt some comfort in sharing beyond my family and support network.

There is no denying that the last 10 years have been an incredibly journey, consisting of many wonderful experiences in traveling the world and representing my country with some of the most wonderfully talented, dedicated & disciplined people I will ever meet.

In the past my emotional levels and moods were tenaciously determined by how I felt physically. One meal, even a single potato chip could alter my mental state, alter my reality. I had such a misconstrued understanding of my physical self.

I wanted to be skinny, I was under the illusion this would make me a better athlete, I’d be fulfilled, more accomplished. In order to achieve this I’d bully my body in to doing something it was not equipped for. My mind began to take over. My thinking got the better of me, these thought patterns were well embedded before I even realised. I did not love myself. In saying that I was able to protect this secret ‘skinny’ desire of mine. I continued to perform at a level where I maintained my position in the national team. I was fighting a lonely battle, one of isolation.

I knew deep down I was never able to perform to my optimal. But this did not seem to faze me, I did not know how to stop. I was embarrassed and I didn’t want anyone to know of this weakness.

The roller coaster I was obligated to ride did not make for a very stable existence. If I made a mistake, if I performed badly, if I didn’t feel fit/skinny, it heavily influenced my mood.  While passion for the sport can mask those moods, the debilitating effect became too extreme.  In the end it was something I could not live with. While appearing to others as anxiety & depressive states that I fell in to, it was all seemingly because I didn’t feel (I want to say healthy), but the stark reality for me …I didn’t feel skinny. I knew I needed help and when I  began speaking to people, being honest with myself and others, I began to improve.

Everyone has their battles, this I understand. They are much harder to conquer on your own, this is what I’ve learned. No matter how isolating your problem can seem to you, there is help out there.

Upon accepting my eating disorder as the main driver in my life I began seeking help.

I am continuing on in my journey. It is one of education and I am on a quest to re-educate myself on the misconceptions I have absorbed and somehow made sense of over the last decade.

Not only do I aspire to play for Australia again, I want to be healthy. At day’s end, elite sport won’t feature in my life forever but my need to be healthy is for life.  To that end, I want to treat my mind, body and soul with the respect it deserves.

Lessons are in abundance in the sporting world, which can be applied to every-day life. I just cannot fathom the impact sport has had on my whole being, including all ups and downs. We do need to take good care of our bodies by being active & eating nutritious foods. By doing this we naturally produce a healthy mind and body . This makes for a better world, don’t you think?

I do not have the answers but perhaps my story can help. I’ll leave you with this final quote…

“A positive body image goes beyond liking your looks. It encompasses taking good care of yourself and leading a fulfilling life.” – Margarita Tartakovsky, MS.

The NWSL Wasn’t All Fun and Games this Weekend…

Soccer is a game that we all love. You and I both wouldn’t be here if that wasn’t the case. (And thanks Hamish and Kieran for asking me to blog here- I am unworthy to be in such amazing company!)

But sometimes things around the game happen that are quite disappointing. As I settled in to watch the four NWSL games this past weekend, an event on both Saturday and Sunday fit this description.

I’ll start with the most recent.

During the Seattle Reign vs Washington Spirit game (the first NWSL game broadcast on tv!) Seattle’s Kaylyn Kyle and Washington’s Ali Krieger both went up for a 50/50 ball and hit heads. Both fell to the ground, and after a short time Kyle returned to play while Krieger was subbed out where it was reported she underwent concussion testing.

A flood of tweets then littered twitter, either @ mentioning Kaylyn Kyle directly or just including her name. These tweets included threats saying how some wanted to kill Kyle or punch her in the face, coming from people who obviously are fans of Krieger and harbour some ill placed hate against Kyle. You can look up the exact tweets if you want, though I’m sure many have been deleted.

Kaylyn Kyle issues her response

Kaylyn Kyle issues her response

These players do not exist for our personal enjoyment. For a player to ever have to respond to these tweets like Kyle later did is disgraceful. If someone can’t watch a game without hurling threats behind a computer screen, then they should be banished to the Phantom Zone. (Superman reference anyone? No? Ok.) Or their television should self-destruct, at the very least.

In all seriousness, it’s disheartening that tweets like these were sent about and to Kyle just days after it was announced that police are investigating twitter threats sent to the Montreal Impact’s Davy Arnaud. John Molinaro, a Toronto-based journalist, explored this same issue of ‘fandoms’ crossing the line in an article last Friday. (Go give it a read after this. It is a great piece and Molinaro is absolutely correct.)

Let’s hope one of these days people realize, even in a moment of stress, this sort of thing is not acceptable, however empty the threats may be.

The other event happened on Saturday night, during the broadcast of the Sky Blue FC home game. During the match, a terrible comment and subsequent reaction was issued by the two Sky Blue play-by-play commentators.

Here in the broadcast (at 1:27:25) one commentator mentioned an unfortunate event that occurred last week in Brazil where a soccer referee (and another player) were brutally murdered. The comments were as follows:

“We treat the refs with respect unlike what happened down in Brazil. If you heard about that.” And the other commentator proceeded to actually laugh for a few seconds and say “I’m not getting involved.”

Is it really too much to ask for 90 minutes of commentating that is void of such disgusting interactions as that one? Why bring up that horrible incident, then proceed to laugh about it on a video where thousands are intently watching and listening?

Don’t stand for this kind of nonsense. To ignore the laugh to that comment and the overall unprofessional nature of it would be doing a disservice to women’s soccer fans and the exceptional soccer players on the field.

If you are upset about the broadcast, then I urge you to politely email your grievances to a combination of Sky Blue FC’s CEO, Director of Operations and Operations Manager whose emails can be found on their website here.

This sort of thing is not complaining; it’s asking for human decency.

As a group that cares, lets collectively demand better, from fellow “fans” and commentators alike.

Home comforts

Hey guys, I’m Tiffany Weimer and welcome to my blog!

A little about me – I have just joined Portland Thorns in the NWSL after playing for Fortuna Hjørring out in Denmark. Throughout my career I have played in Finland, Brazil and Sweden but now I’m back home and getting settled at Portland.

I have been so lucky to have been able to travel all over the world, playing the game I love. It has certainly helped me not only as a player but as a person. It’s been a challenge but ultimately a pleasure to immerse myself in different cultures.

I loved my time in Denmark. I really began to feel a part of Danish society by the end, none more so than when we played in the Danish Cup final against Brondby.

Before the match, for one of the first times since I’d been there, they played the Danish National Anthem.  Of course, a national anthem from a different country won’t resonate the same as the one from your own, but I felt something when it was playing. I felt a sense of pride for the country of Denmark and its people. I saw my teammates and the opposing team taking great pride in singing the national anthem, and although I’m not Danish, I’ve been so immersed in the culture and its people that I felt I was allowed to feel the same way.

During the Cup final, which we lost 3-2in the 92nd minute, I felt what it meant to play for Fortuna Hjørring in a way that I hadn’t before. I had been so interested in the results (win or loss) that I forgot how much pride we had in our club. How much respect I had for my teammates and my coaches and how much love I have for the game. It was one of those things that pass by you so fast, that you almost don’t even get to enjoy it. But for a split second during the national anthem, I thought to myself, “wow, this is awesome…” and I almost felt as if I was Danish for a few minutes.

Being overseas for the past few years hasn’t been an easy road. It’s difficult when you don’t understand the language, and sometimes the culture can be vastly different from what you’re used to. The most important thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong way to live your life. The way the Danes do something compared to the way the Americans do it isn’t right or wrong, it’s just different. And that’s something I’ve come to understand with trial and error. It’s something that has become relevant to so many aspects of my life.

But now I have made the daring move from my “comfortable” life overseas back to the country I was born in. I’m now playing alongside the likes of Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan. As one can imagine, it’s not an easy process to come into a team midseason, especially when you wear a headband. Everyone has established their place within the team, friendships have been made and, well, the new “kid” is almost 30 years old, and doesn’t like to dance.

I’ve had the opportunity to sit down and talk with almost everyone on the team. I’ve had the chance to get to know more about them than just what foot they’d like to receive the ball on. In my adjustment period, I’ve not only wanted to adapt to a new style of play, formation, coaches and environment on the field, but also the environment off the field. My teammates have inspired me to become more. I think that means they’re special people. I think this will be a good time for me.

OK, so finally that win!

Hi I’m Seattle Reign’s Jess Fishlock and welcome to my blog!

Photo by Winnie Ho

Jess has taken to life in Seattle like a duck to water. Photo by Winnie Ho.

There’s no denying and it’s certainly no secret that Seattle had a tough start to the first NWSL season, where a win just looked like it was not meant to happen.

Then BAM!

In a game which we probably weren’t at our best, we turned a potential 1-0 loss into a 2-1 win over the Boston Breakers and have been unbeaten since. The relief for everyone was huge, we knew we just needed the first win to happen and we could build on it.

We felt we were good enough over our last few games, especially against WNYF but couldn’t hold the lead. I’m actually unsure what exactly clicked that night for us. It may have even just been a bit of luck mixed with a goal of pure quality from Christine Nairn to take the win.

Nine straight defeats brought its frustrations. Photo by Winnie Ho.

Nine straight defeats brought its frustrations. Photo by Winnie Ho.

For me, to come off a nine-game losing streak then win a game by coming back from a goal down, after travelling the east coast basically just sums our squad up. Our mental toughness and belief in what we have been doing from day one is something I think we can be proud of. Many teams would have combusted, fought, blamed each other.

We didn’t. We didn’t change much – if at all anything. We simply turned up, kept working hard in order to turn it around. I think that was and still is our motivation. We have great people from top to bottom. From the owners and coach right through the club, we want to be successful for each other.

The important thing is that we’ve kept it up and are unbeaten in four – the win would not have meant anything if we had not kept momentum. We have a lot of characters in the team – leaders – from all over. There’s Kaylyn, Emz, myself, Keelin, Pinoe, Hope – so many big voices in the team.

Hope Solo has been a big influence since returning from injury. Photo by Winnie Ho.

Hope Solo has been a big influence since returning from injury. Photo by Winnie Ho.

Training is pretty intense – none of us like to lose and we expect high quality. Nine times out of 10 it’s there but if it isn’t for whatever reason (we are human after all) we can just give each other a little reality check (nicely of course!) and bring it back up to where it should be.

Playing and training with these types of professionals and internationals is brilliant, and I learn a lot from them all. However, there’s no denying that training on a daily basis with Hope and Megan is just unreal. They are both incredible at what they do, and I love playing with Pinoe. Technically she is brilliant and tactically she is so aware – it’s just easy.

Hope is, well, Hope! The saves she has made already…I’m unsure how she’s even made them! On top of that, they are so nice, really down to earth and good people. Which is so good. All we need is for Pinoe to change her hair (yea right!) and spectators may have an easier viewing …

That’s not going to happen though so, for all those who can’t see from a distance, Meg’s a good inch or two taller than me. Just saying…!