World Cup footballer visits Hackney school

Pupils at Clapton Girls’ school excited to meet the famous star

A World Cup footie star spoke about the difficulties being a girl in a man’s world, when she taught a few Clapton pupils some fancy footwork on Monday.

England and Arsenal ladies footballer Rachel Yankey gave an hour-long coaching session to enthusiastic young 11-15 year olds at Clapton Girls Technology School, in Laura Place, Lower Clapton.

Yankey is one of only seven people to have played football for England 100 times, in an exclusive club that includes Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton and David Beckham – and she was just the second woman to receive the accolade.

Sexism in football is in the spotlight following the sacking last month of Sky Sports presenter Andy Gray after a microphone apparently caught him and his colleague Richard Keys making disparaging comments about female assistant referee Sian Massey and West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady.

“I have played football for a good few years and I have never heard anything like that in my playing career, the game’s moved on,” said Rachel.

“When I look back in school, the boys accepted me - and in life in general, if you are good at something, if you are black or white, male or female, it doesn’t matter, you just want the best people to be doing the job.”

Most Read

The 31-year old, who became the UK’s first female professional player when she joined Fulham in 2000, explained the difficulties she faces in the male dominated sport.

“We were the first professional team in the country, but the league wasn’t professional.

“We were training every day just like the male professionals, but weren’t getting the same money as them - but I can understand why, so it’s fine.”

She recognises the inflated pay cheques are due to the huge amounts of cash poured into male football - because of the fan bases the teams have built up over the years.

“When I was growing up, it was inbred into me I was going to be an Arsenal supporter, it’s traditional to take allegiance to one team, and it’s passed on from generation to generation” she explained.

A women’s semi-professional league will launch in April, and Rachel hopes in years to come it could become professional.

The idea is to play games during the summer outside of the men’s season to build up publicity and a fan base.

Clapton Girls’ PE teacher Nicola Fitzgerald won the training session with Yankey through a competition run by the London Youth Games, Europe’s largest annual youth sports event.

“We have a poster of Rachel in the school, so when the girls were able to see who was coming and how successful she’s been, it got to some of them,” she said.

“Hopefully if just one of them goes on to play and train in the future, it’s a job well done,” added Rachel.