Women and girls football in Guernsey is on a bit of a high at the moment with Maya Le Tissier continuing to make headlines at Brighton and Hove Albion and 11 year old Chloe Ingrouille scoring the winning goal in this year’s Under 11 Muratti – the only girl playing in this inter-island fixture.
But the sport in Guernsey is still in need further support according to Joelle Pengelley, Football Development Officer for women and girls.
Twenty six year old Joelle has been in post since 2014, first in a part-time role but working full-time since 2015.
‘It’s important to start young and work up,’ says Joelle.
‘My first project in my first year was to deliver girls-only sessions to Year 1 and Year 2 pupils with the aim of inspiring them and getting them to enjoy football at a young age.’
Joelle now delivers six week sessions in all primary schools where girls can sign up to enjoy football as part of a lunchtime or after school club.
‘There have been huge numbers taking up the opportunity in all schools because there isn’t really the opportunity for them to take part otherwise. The boys tend to dominate football in the playground or on the football field,’ says Joelle.
It’s been a tough few years for women’s football as the game struggled to survive with fewer younger players coming through.
But Joelle is starting to see a change.
‘Girls are now getting involved because they are getting more confident. They have proved themselves to the boys. It’s becoming normal for girls to play football. They just want to play. It’s moving in the right direction. This is accepted by the boys too.
‘The Women’s World Cup gave the game great exposure and has helped people appreciate women’s football as a sport. Teachers have been including girls in school football teams, even at secondary level. They are not separate anymore – they are just seen as footballers.’
There are more and more opportunities for girls to play outside of school too.
‘We deliver an FA scheme called Wildcats for five to 11 year-olds with two sessions a week– one on Monday at St Sampson’s and one on Wednesday at Styx with over 50 girls in total taking part.’
There are also opportunities available for 12-16 year old girls on Mondays at St Sampson’s and Thursdays at Victoria Avenue.
The senior game too is starting to recover after a few turbulent years.
‘We currently have two teams playing in a Channel Island league along with four teams in Jersey. It’s sponsored by Condor and the games are scheduled to take advantage of day trips,’ says Joelle.
Football has been a passion for Joelle from a young age.
‘My Dad coached and my brother played so I have always been around football. My mum used to pick me up from dancing and take me to football.’
Joelle remembers playing at her primary school with both boys and girls as part of a Year 5 and Year 6 tournament. This tournament is still going strong and is taking place on Thursday 26th March this year.
Joelle found it more difficult at secondary school as interest waned and she had to give up at age 14.
But she is determined to make sure the girls and women’s game continues to build on the current momentum.
‘The one thing I would love to see is to re-grow a girls’ minis section. When I used to play there was a girls’ minis section in every club. They would have their own girls’ minis festivals.’
She would also like to see some girls teams being put together to play friendly matches against the teams playing in the Corbet Shield Under 12 development league.
‘This would give them more experience in a game situation – in the weeks when the teams don’t have a match scheduled. The talent is coming through and they can still play for their clubs. This is just an extra opportunity for them to play together as a team and develop their skills.
‘This would then feed into the women’s game.’
Joelle admits that Guernsey has a way to go to catch up with Jersey but with the return of the Women’s Muratti this year after a three year hiatus and women’s football featuring in the 2021 Island Games on home soil, the women’s game is in a much better place to build on recent successes.
Anyone interested in finding out more about Women and Girls football can contact Joelle at Joelle.Pengelley@guernseyfa.com