A Plymouth women’s football team celebrates after finishing fourth – in a men’s league. The Hunter District Phoenix Under-13 team moved to a men’s league after dominating all of their rivals.
But the girls, playing the boys, have won 11 of their 18 games this season. Their campaign included a 7-0 win as they finished fourth, narrowly missing out on promotion to the league above.
The team will now play in the final of the EFS tournament in a few weeks – the UK’s biggest grassroots festival. And when they subsequently play in the same local league with the boys from September when the new season opens, they will have earned the season’s respect before they potentially haven’t.
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Coach Adam Lee has been coaching for 10 years, coaching the girls alongside Ian Nicholls. He said: “It’s normal for girls to play in the men’s league because there just aren’t as many women’s teams.
“In all the games we played, only two of the men’s teams had a girl each. The physique of the boys in football is different from that of the girls, as a team the girls had to deal with fast football and even at advanced technical abilities, but we were playing on large pitches with more players.
“Instead of playing 7 we were playing 11. We weren’t really worried about the results in terms of the men’s league, we agreed to focus on football and wanted to be competitive to some extent but mostly stick it out. . As an all-female team, no one really knew how the girls could play.
“Our girls have worked really hard and a lot of the girls in our team probably train three to four times a week, some of them also play for other teams like: Plymouth Argyle, Exeter, County Devon as well training with Devon FA Center of Excellence.
“We already have three of our girls, including our goalkeeper and two defenders on the England Talent Pathway – it’s a route set up by the FA to reach local girls who have potential, players are recommended and then monitored during the trial days.
Speaking about the community, friendship and skills the girls will take with them, Adam added: “When you’re involved with a team, the friendships you earn grow with you over the years. The coaching staff and parents become a community.Each match is even better because it cements a unity in the team despite the result, these are skills these girls can also take on the pitch, communication, teamwork, work fierce.
“For me personally as a coach it inspires pride, it’s interesting for me, I’ve coached boys and girls, I prefer to coach girls because they want to learn and learn from their mistakes. They play such a good level of football.
“The girls exceeded all expectations in the local league, so for the next season the expectations will be different.”
Danielle, a parent of one of the girls, added: “My daughter is quite shy but on the pitch she loves the game, she is able to bond as a team as they are all in this together. For me, as a parent, I can’t help but beam with pride as I watch my daughter and her team progress more and more and she is putting a lot of effort into this success, she only has one week -end free throughout June! We are just very proud.
Many girls, including Danielle’s daughter, will be trying out this summer for other teams and leagues.
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